Jets 30 Falcons 28: Soaring Out of Atlanta

Scott Cunningham

The Jets are now 3-2. Gang Green stunned the Falcons tonight at the Georgia Dome 30-28 on a last second field goal. This was a very impressive showing by this team. The Jets generally controlled the game. Then they showed they could take a punch, putting together a game-winning drive after a devastating late Falcons touchdown. This might be a season-defining win. Join me below as we recap.

The Good:

Nick Folk: He was the hero again, perfect on 3 field goal tries. That includes his 43 yard game-winner as time expired in the fourth quarter. He also added 5 touchbacks. The clutch legend of Folk continues. This guy just keeps making big kicks.

Marty Mornhinweg: I don't want to perpetuate the idea that he called a good game simply because the players executed. I liked where he was coming from, though. He finally made a point to establish the run first. A rookie quarterback needs help. The Jets have been asking Geno Smith to carry too much of the load through the first quarter of the season. The idea has to be to try and win with him throwing 20 passes. The Jets primarily looked to get the run game on track tonight. That is really important. It slows down the pass rush. It opens up throwing lanes as the defense commits extra resources to stopping the run. It also keeps an inexperienced quarterback out of crazy downs and distances. Leaning on the run was a big reason the Jets only faced three third downs of 10 yards or more. This has to be the formula for the Jets.

Jon Gruden kept talking about all of the different looks the Jets were throwing at the Falcons. It felt like the Jets were trying to exploit the fact the Falcons had inexperienced players on defense by using some unique approaches. You saw tight ends split out wide. You saw multiple tailbacks in on certain plays, which could cause confusion among the young linebackers who might have an assignment for one tailback. It felt like the Jets were using this to great effect early.

Geno Smith: This was impressive. He did not have to carry the load. The Jets did ask him to make plays, however, and he did. Smith was 16 for 20 for 199 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His throws were generally on target. The touchdown to Jeff Cumberland was a very difficult pass with little margin for error that he threw perfectly. The touchdown to Kellen Winslow II was another very nice throw. Then when the Jets were down in the last 2:00, Geno kept his composure. He didn't make a mistake. He calmly took what the defense gave him and got the team into field goal range. He also avoided turnovers. It was subtle, but it looked like he was protecting the ball a lot better as a runner tonight than he had in the first four weeks. It is very encouraging to see Geno bounce back from last week's rough outing like this.

Jeff Cumberland: He really didn't do anything spectacular. The Falcons let him get wide open on that 47 yard completion, and the touchdown was more about Geno making a great pass and taking advantage of Cumberland's size. Cumberland is supposed to be a big target, though, and he made the plays. He finished with 3 catches and 79 yards along with a touchdown.

Jeremy Kerley: He led the Jets with 5 catches. He had 68 yards and a touchdown. Kerley's catches tended to be important ones. He did very nice work slipping tacklers after the catch on the touchdown. He also was key on the game-winning drive. In addition, Kerley actually made a big play on a punt return slipping tacklers on a 24 yard run back and drawing a personal foul to set up a touchdown.

Stephen Hill: He only had 2 catches for 21 yards, but they were both on the game-winning drive. He actually broke a tackle and added critical extra yardage on one of them.

The Three Headed Running Back Monster: All three Jets running backs made a contribution as the Jets looked to establish the run. Mike Goodson had a 26 yard run on the first touchdown drive. Chris Ivory had a 19 yard run to set up New York's final touchdown. Bilal Powell had some nice runs on the game-winning field goal drive, particularly on the Jets' final offensive play. He somehow got past an unblocked defender in the backfield to turn what should have been a loss into a 6 yard run. It was the difference between a 43 yard field goal try and one that probably would have been over 50 yards.

Offensive Line: The run blocking looked very good. They were getting to the second level consistently. Even though the Jets gave up four sacks, the Falcons really did not generate a ton of pressure otherwise. Last week it felt like Titans pass rushers were living in the backfield and getting hits and pressures even when there were no sacks.

Muhammad Wilkerson: He was living in the Atlanta backfield. He had a strip sack and multiple other tackles for a loss en route to his 7 tackle evening.

Sheldon Richardson: Speaking of living in the Atlanta backfield, he had 5 tackles, a sack, and a batted pass.

David Harris: It wasn't really a clean game for Harris, particularly in the red zone. He missed some tackles, had some penalties, and got eaten up by blockers on key plays, including the first Falcons touchdown. He still made a big impact with 14 tackles.

Jaiquawn Jarrett: He saw some decent playing time and was all over the place. He hit Matt Ryan. He did a decent job in coverage. He made some key tackles and finished the game with 7 in total.

Antonio Allen: His blocked punt set up the first New York score of the night.

The Bad:

Rex Ryan's Game Management: And this would have been a much bigger deal had the Jets lost. There were multiple botched moves from the sidelines. On the first Jets drive, it took almost 20 seconds to get the play in from the sideline on fourth down, possibly because it took too long to make a decision to go for it. That cost the team a chance to score a touchdown and forced New York to settle for a field goal. There was a bad challenge on a play that wasn't even close. Then after the touchdown that put the Jets up 26-14 early in the fourth quarter, the Jets kicked the extra point instead of going for two. There really isn't much difference between 26-14 and 27-14 at that point. There is a huge difference between those two and 28-14. Had the Jets gone for and made the two, Atlanta's last touchdown would have only tied the game.

Tackling: There really was not one culprit, but the Jets had multiple plays where they missed at least five tackles, including one that resulted in a touchdown.

Dawan Landry: He missed a chance to scoop up a fumble early. Instead, the Falcons got a 47 yard gain and a touchdown out of the play. He got beaten on the go ahead score by the Falcons late in the fourth. He also missed some tackles.

Darrin Walls: I don't want to get on the guy too much because his coverage wasn't as bad as it was last week. He also made a key tackle one on one in the fourth quarter. He missed two key opportunities to pick passes off, though. Those could have been costly.

Other Thoughts:

  • We will find out more once the game tape becomes available, but it seemed like the Jets were playing to prevent the big play. They seemed to be playing bend but don't break. The idea was to force the Falcons to string together long drives of consecutive plays executed at a high level rather than give up anything cheap. Atlanta has a lot of talent on offense so they were able to execute, and that contributed to their good offensive stats. Even the best offenses have a tough time executing ten plus plays in a row consistently. It seems like the Jets accomplished their mission. The Falcons had to work their tails off for everything they got, and aside from the Julio Jones 46 yarder, they really were not able to destroy the Jets with the quick strike the way they destroy so many other teams.
  • As much as people got on the officials for the penalty call that extended Atlanta's touchdown drive, the officiating was at least consistent. The Falcons were hurt by calls just as ticky tack.

So the Jets now stand at 3-2 and are a victory over a winless Steelers team away from a 4-2 start. Good and bad seasons are rarely predestined in the NFL. Sometimes teams get off to good starts. Winning becomes a habit. Players gain confidence and buy in. The opposite can be true too. Crushing losses early can destroy a team's confidence. I can't help but wonder whether we look back on this night as one that propelled the 2013 Jets on a trajectory few expected.

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