After another dramatic offseason, the New York Jets finally kicked off the season on Sunday and found a way to topple the Tampa Bay Bucs in former Jet Darrelle Revis’ return to the Meadowlands. Down two with 34 seconds to go, rookie QB Geno Smith manufactured a rally and got the benefit of a late hit out of bounds that moved the ball to the TB 30, allowing Nick Folk to drill the game winning field, 18-17 your final score.
The Jets under Rex Ryan never win pretty that often, and this certainly was no different. Smith had two turnovers in the first half and the running game was non-existent the entire game. The defense gave a key 3rd down conversion on the drive Tampa temporarily took a 17-15 lead as Vincent Jackson burned them as he did all day but was able to keep the dangerous Doug Martin in check all day. Overall, it was a solid victory over a decent Bucs team that should just step one if the Jets are going to return to relevance in the near future.
Here’s my analysis of each unit for the Jets:
Offense: 2nd round draft pick from West Virginia Geno Smith made his first career NFL start at quarterback with Mark Sanchez out with an injured shoulder sustained in the third game of the preseason against the Giants. For the most past, he did okay. For most of the first half he had a had time moving the football and fumbled deep in the Jets territory leading to a Bucs touchdown and threw an interception next possession. After the Jets defense forced a turnover of their own, Smith got his first career touchdown on a pass to Kellen Winslow to close the score near the end of the half. In the fourth quarter Smith was able to lead the team on two scoring drives, one starting from their own 23 and the second to set up the game winner. His 256 passing yards (303 total) set an NFL record for the most in a Week One debut by a rookie QB drafted in the 2nd round or later. With a 48.5 QBR and 80.6 passer rating, I give him a B.
The Jets often had trouble moving the ball on Sunday as the running game was very ineffective. Smith had 47 yards on six scrambles, including the 10 yard run that drew the late hit to set up the winning field goal. Other than that, the Jets had just 90 yards on the ground on 29 attempts (3.1 YPA). Newly acquired Chris Ivory had just 15 yards on 10 carries and Bilal Powell had 29 yards on 12 carries, six yards being his longest rush. With a rookie quarterback, the Jets running game has to be better if they’re going to score. New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, formerly Andy Reid’s right hand man, will probably look to get it going, as we saw with the occasional use of the wild cat. For now, they get an F.
Smith also got sacked five times, but the Jets won the ball possession battle by about five minutes. But let’s be honest, the Bucs are arguably the best defense this team will see all year especially against the run. This offense is a raw product that will take time to develop, perhaps the whole season. Smith made the plays when he had to and made up for his early mistakes to get the Jets the victory. Overall, I give the whole unit a C-. Still a lot of work to do.
Defense: The Jets defense looked like it was back to being what it used to be under Rex Ryan. They forced two big turnovers and a safety (nearly a fumble recovery for a touchdown). Duwon Landry’s huge 38-yard interception return off Josh Freeman set up Geno’s touchdown late in the first half. They also managed to keep the threatening Doug Martin in check all day, just 65 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown that was set up by the Smith fumble on the NYJ 5. The Bucs went just 6 for 16 on third down but picked up a couple of huge conversions on their final drive as Vincent Jackson burned them like he did all day, seven catches for 154 yards. Other than that screw up, the defense was very effective, holding Tampa to just 250 total yards and the whole Bucs team was penalized 13 times for a whopping 102 total yards, many of them mistakes by the Bucs offense thanks to pressure form the defense and a MetLife Stadium that was rocking.
Special Teams: With the offense struggling to move the football early on, the Jets special teams kept them in it. Robert Malone averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts, two were touchbacks and two landing within the Bucs’ 20. His longest was 84 yards from the NYJ 9. The Bucs only manged 127 return yards on six punts/kickoffs. Nick Folk was clutch yet again, 3 for 3 on the day including the game winner from 48 yards. Playing their first season since 2000 without Mike Westhoff running the show, the special teams probably helped or did win this game. A+.
Overall, it was a fun win for the Jets. Although it looked like the weren’t going to pull it out, they did and Gang Green is 1-0 and now faces a huge test in Foxboro on Thursday night. The Patriots struggled against a young Bills team and will probably be without RB Shane Vereen, the star of their win Sunday, Rob Gronkowski and possibly Danny Amendola. The Pats are at their weakest right now, so you never know. The Jets may surprise them, but don’t really count on it, never bet against Brady and Belichick. But hey, you never know.