Atlanta completed its own comeback to take the lead 28-27 with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter. Smith followed by marching the Jets down the field and setting up the game-winning, 43-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired.
Here are the most important things we learned about the Jets following their Week 5 win.
1. Geno Smith took a huge step in the right direction Monday night.
Rex Ryan looks like a smart man for sticking with Smith for another week. After the Jets' 38-13 loss at Tennessee last week—a game in which Smith turned the ball over four times—there were questions about how long Ryan would stick with the rookie quarterback.
Smith ditched the color-coded armband he wore the previous four weeks, a move that Ryan says was to help him just "play the position."
The Smith we saw Monday night in Atlanta was nothing like the one that was careless with the ball in Week 4.
There were no more plays like this one:
Instead, Smith ran offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's game plan to near perfection. Mornhinweg saw the opportunity to exploit the middle of the field against the Falcons' secondary, and Smith did just that.
Smith didn't turn the ball over once in Week 5, surely an encouraging stat for Jets fans. The most important thing, however, is the confidence his teammates are showing in him.
Offensive guard Willie Colon commended Smith for the poise he showed in the huddle as the Jets took over at their own 20-yard line down by one. Colon said, “There was no Disney pep talk. We didn’t have enough time for that. Good offenses get it done.”
Smith's short time in New York has been a roller coaster ride so far, but the way he bounced back against the Falcons is a great sign for the Jets.
2. Jets defense is nearly among the best in the league.
Most experts figured New York's defense would remain pretty solid even with the loss of All-World cornerback Darrelle Revis. But not many thought it would be this good.
After Monday night's showdown against the high-flying Falcons, the Jets' defensive stats stack up with the best.
Gang Green ranks second in total defense at 299.0 yards per game; second in rushing yards allowed at 76.2 per game; 13th in passing yards allowed at 222.8 yards per game; and second with 4.3 yards allowed per play.
And just as you would expect from a Rex Ryan defense, the Jets are aggressive and good at causing pressure.
In the closing seconds of the second half, New York's defense was challenged and stood up to the test. Instead of electing to kick a field goal to go into the half, Atlanta tried to jam it into the end zone, but the Jets D stood Jacquizz Rodgers up at the goal line.
Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson has played a large role in creating that pressure, and he has teamed up with Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison as one of the top young defensive lines in the league.
That pressure is also reflected by the Jets' 16 sacks through five games.
In my mind, the thing that is keeping the defense from being dominant is its inability to force turnovers. The defense has only recorded one interception and two fumble recoveries this season, good for second worst in the league.
If this defense can be more opportunistic and create turnovers, it will go a long way in taking pressure off an up-and-down Jets offense.
3. Darrin Walls should start over Dee Milliner for now.
With Dee Milliner out the last two weeks, Walls was thrown into the fire as a starter.
The third-year, undrafted cornerback from Notre Dame looked overmatched by Tennessee's wide receivers in Week 4. He was flagged several times and allowed a touchdown to rookie Justin Hunter.
But his second start of the season was much better.
Matched up against Roddy White for much of the game, he recorded two pass breakups and had a key stop late in the game on a wide receiver screen.
His play is a nice surprise for the Jets, who have to be a little disappointed in what Milliner has brought to the field so far this year. Ryan has already criticized Milliner twice this year, and that won't be good for his playing time this year.
My guess is that Milliner is ultimately the better player, but for now, Walls is the better option at cornerback for the Jets.
4. Muhammad Wilkerson is a beast.
If that GIF isn't enough to get you on board with Wilkerson, I don't know what will.
The rest of the NFL is getting to know what Jets fans have known for a while—Wilkerson is a force to be reckoned with.
Wilkerson has recorded four sacks this year and has made a habit of disrupting opposing teams' backfields.
And if you ask him, he makes it sound like he's just getting started. He spoke with Jets writer Randy Lange of NFL.com:
I feel like there’s always room for improvement. I feel like Monday was one of my best games that I put on tape, but I still have plenty more to play. It’s a long season. People say I’m going to make the Pro Bowl and I appreciate the kind words, but at the end of the day I have to play each game and hopefully we’ll see at the end of the season.
5. Mike Goodson is the change-of-pace back the Jets need.
After serving a four-game suspension to start the 2013 season, Goodson showed in Week 5 he is ready to contribute.
He only got four touches against Atlanta, but he made the most of them. He racked up 32 yards on three carries and added a reception for nine yards.
Running back Bilal Powell is off to a great start (78 rushes, 330 yards, 12 receptions, 117 yards), yet the Jets are thin at running back.
Whle Powell is most effective between the tackles, Goodson thrives when he kicks it outside and can make people miss. That ability will also give Smith a good option for screen passes.
In an interview with Joe Caporoso of Turn On The Jets, Levi Damien from Silver and Black Pride—who covered Goodson while in Oakland—said, "I see him as always having a complementary role in an offense much like Darren Sproles has had his entire career. He will offer a burst of speed an [sic] energy off the bench or in a two back set."
Goodson has been solid throughout his career as a returner and complementary back but has had some issues with fumbles. If he can shake that tendency, he will be very useful for Rex Ryan and the Jets.