What can you really say about a game like that? The Jets have begun the 2013 NFL season with a 1-0 record after a thrilling 18-17 victory today over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium. The Jets hope this begins the Road to MetLife Stadium on the way to the Super Bowl, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. For now, let's just enjoy this win. Join me below as we recap.
As a disclaimer, I was at the game today so I had a larger view of the field on television, but I did not have the benefit of replays from many angles. These are my thoughts as I saw the game, but they might change in a day or two after I have a second viewing.
Nick Folk: Many of us, myself included, seem to complain every year when the Jets do not upgrade on Folk in the offseason. Then Folk has a day like today when he hits a 48 yard field goal with :02 left to win a game, adding to his resume of clutch kicks with the Jets. It was his third field goal of a perfect day. He also took advantage of the perfect weather with a strong day on kickoffs, including a pair of touchbacks. He might not be able to keep that up as the weather gets colder, but it was a great day for Nick Folk.
Demario Davis: He makes this list for one play. It is a play few will remember, but it saved the game for the Jets. When Vincent Jackson got loose on his 37 yard catch on Tampa Bay's final drive, Davis chased him down and made a touchdown saving tackle. The Bucs had to settle for a field goal, and that was why the Jets needed a field goal and not a touchdown on the last drive to win it. Bart Scott never could have caught Jackson.
Geno Smith: I went back and forth on where to put Geno. His stat line of 24 for 38, 265 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception looks pretty good. I think the numbers are a bit misleading in this case, though. I did not think Geno played a brilliant game.
The two turnovers just can't happen. A quarterback cannot allow himself to be stripped in the shadow of his own goal line, and a quarterback certainly cannot misfire that badly on a pass to a running back. Under different circumstance, those plays could have taken the Jets out of the game. It seems like Geno is struggling a bit adjusting to the speed of the game as could be expected for a rookie. He might not be use to the pass rush getting into his face so quickly, and his throws while generally on target are a bit behind the receiver because despite playing with Tavon Austin in college, he might not be used to his receivers getting to spots so quickly. The NFL is a different game.
When you look at the Jets' scoring today, one could argue the offense put up a net 9 points. Geno gave away 7 on the fumble. The offense scored 16. Even among those points, 7 were scored off a turnover that required the offense to go 31 yards and still required a personal foul to extend the drive. Another 3 were set up by another personal foul.
He also seems a little tentative looking downfield. There are windows open that he isn't firing on. Again, that is not unusual for a rookie. It can take years for a quarterback to get comfortable with these things. At the same time, these are plays left on the field. On the play where Geno drew the late hit out of bounds to set up the winning field goal, he scrambled. I will have to watch again to confirm, but it looked like Kellen Winslow got behind the defense. Had it not been for a boneheaded penalty, that might have made a huge difference in the outcome.
Make no mistake, though. There were things to like. Geno shook off the turnovers, threw the touchdown pass, and protected the ball in the second half. He made good decisions to run the ball when nothing was there and led the team with 47 yards on 6 runs. He adds an extra dimension, and that personal foul to set up the kick was at least a product of his ability to run. He made some beautiful passes into extremely tight spaces that make me really excited to think about what could be if he could ever do that consistently. More than that, on a day where his run game gave the offense absolutely nothing, Geno at least kept the unit from becoming a three and out machine the way it was far too often last year. Even if the unit was not putting up points, the defense at least did not end up gassed from having to be on the field, and it had a little more flexibility as far as field position went.
I think I would grade Geno somewhere in the C range. Probably the best thing I could say about him is even if Mark Sanchez is healthy for Week 2, we saw enough that there really is no question that Geno should start that game.
Kellen Winslow II: Geno seemed to trust he could throw it to two big bodies. Winslow was one with 7 catches, 79 yards, and a touchdown.
Stephen Hill: Hill was the other with 6 catches for 39 yards.
Damon Harrison: The Jets held Doug Martin to 65 yards on 24 carries. That total includes a 17 yard run on the last drive when the Jets were playing pass. Harrison did a great job controlling the middle of the line. He finished with 6 tackles, a high total for a nose tackle.
Muhammad Wilkerson: I thought Wilkerson picked up right where he left off his superb 2012 campaign. He appeared to be winning his assignments regularly and finished with a sack. Some credit for the sack also has to go to the coverage, which gave Wilkerson time to beat his man, but he did just that.
Sheldon Richardson: It looked like the Bucs were having a really tough time blocking him. At the game, I thought it was the kind of thing that didn't show up in the box score. Then I looked at the box score and saw he had 7 tackles and 0.5 sacks so I guess I was wrong. I'm starting to get the feeling Richardson is going to make me look really foolish for questioning the Jets' drafting him. That's part of the beauty of this site. Sometimes when I'm wrong I get to be really happy about it.
David Harris: I thought Harris' play today was very, very encouraging. He looked like the old Harris out there. He was constantly in the middle of plays, stopping runners near the line of scrimmage. He had 7 tackles and forced a fumble.
Antonio Allen: Allen's play might have been the biggest pleasant surprise of the day. I really liked what he did in run support. He had 6 tackles, and there were other instances where he redirected runners, effectively ending run plays as his teammates could clean them up. In coverage, he was more spotty. He was late a few times and sometimes in the wrong position, but it was not egregious.
Dawan Landry: After he blew the tackle that allowed Jackson to scamper into field goal range on the last drive, I was wondering whether I could say he was good. The Jets winning makes that easier. His big return on his interception helped set up a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, he also saved Garrett McIntyre's bacon. Landry flew up to tackle Martin for a minimal gain on a play where McIntyre got blown away trying to set the edge. Martin might still be running if not for Landry.
Calvin Pace: I thought he set the edge well, and he picked up 0.5 sack. He still looks really slow.
Robert Malone: He didn't do a good job on his last punt that gave the Bucs a touchback setting up their final drive. That 84 yarder was ridiculous, though.
Antwan Barnes: He was brought in to bolster the pass rush and had a sack in his debut with an assist from the coverage.
Bilal Powell: I know it's really taking liberty saying a back who didn't rush for 3 yards a carry played well, but it seemed like he made the most of some lousy run blocking. He could have run for even less. He also proved a useful outlet as a receiver with 4 catches for 35 yards.
Vladimir Ducasse: The offensive line did not look good at all, and Ducasse in particular looked like a blown block machine for much of this game. While I blame the fumble more on Geno, the defender who got to him appeared to be Vlad's man.
Willie Colon/Austin Howard: The power side of the line seemed like it struggled to get much of a push.
Antonio Cromartie: Vincent Jackson seemed like a tough matchup for Cro going in, and that turned out to be the case. Jackson kept getting inside Cromartie for big completions.
Dee Milliner: The rookie seems to have Kyle Wilson Syndrome, frequently failing to turn his head. He got burned on the Mike Williams touchdown. It looked like Josh Freeman had his eye on Milliner the whole time, and knew he had a touchdown waiting for him. This is not uncommon for a rookie cornerback. It is tough to get everything rolling.
Chris Ivory: Ivory showed little of the explosive talent Jets fans hoped they were getting. The only time he resembled it, he left his feet and crashed into his own man, resulting in a 7 yard gain that left many more yards on the field. He also failed to haul in more than one catchable pass, showing the receiving skills that have resulted in 3 NFL receptions.
Jeremy Kerley (return man): Kerley did not show much awareness as a return man. He fair caught a ball he should not have and let another ball bounce he should not have. He was pulled from the job in the second half for Kyle Wilson.
I am sure many people will dismiss this win and say the Jets got lucky. You know what? A lot of those people also probably said the Jets are going to be the worst team in the league and wouldn't even keep it close today. If a team is going to have a surprise run, it needs a few wins like these. These are the kinds of games that can serve as a springboard for a great run. Will it? I don't know, but let's have hope.
Just know this. For the next three days, the Jets are undefeated and in first place. That beats the heck out of the alternative.