Following Monday night, Geno Smith will learn what it's like to be a hero in New York City.
The rookie signal-caller threw three touchdowns and led a game-winning drive to close the game, setting up Nick Folk to kick a 43-yard field goal as time expired to give the New York Jets a 30-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
Smith, who completed 16 of 20 passes for 199 yards, looked more like a poised veteran than a rookie in his fifth career start on that final drive. Starting on his own 20-yard line with three timeouts and 1:54 left on the clock, he connected on three straight passes—two to Stephen Hill and one to Jeremy Kerley—to put the Jets in Atlanta territory in quick succession.
He then scrambled out for an 8-yard gain on a broken play, putting New York into field goal range. The Jets stayed conservative after that play, calling two Bilal Powell runs that went for 10 yards and a short pass from Smith to get to the Atlanta 25-yard line.
Ryan Riddle of Bleacher Report was one of many to note that these aren't the type of plays Jets fans are used to seeing from their quarterback:
We're already seeing things form Geno we just didn't see from Sanchez. Upgrade.— Ryan Riddle (@Ryan_Riddle) October 8, 2013
Smith's heroics will overshadow an equally brilliant performance from the quarterback on the other sideline.
Just moments before Smith was carving up the Falcons defense, Matt Ryan was doing the same to New York's. The Pro Bowl quarterback led Atlanta on a 10-play, 63-yard drive down the field, culminating in a three-yard touchdown pass to Levine Toilolo.
It was something the Atlanta crowd had seen many times before. Ryan, who threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns while completing 36 of 45 passes, had led the Falcons on two straight marches down the field that turned a 27-14 deficit into a 28-27 lead.
The drive would have been Ryan's 23rd game-winner of his career, the most of any QB since he came into the league in 2008, as noted by Monday Night Football's Twitter feed:
Matt Ryan has led NFL-most 22 game-winning drives in 4th quarter or OT since entering NFL in 2008.— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) October 8, 2013
Instead, the contest made history in the wrong way for the Falcons quarterback. Atlanta has now lost back-to-back home games for the first time in the 28-year-old Ryan's career.
Jets win! A last-second FG gives the Jets a 30-28 victory. Falcons have lost back-to-back home games for the 1st time in Matt Ryan's career.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 8, 2013
Looking back, the Falcons can only blame their own miscues for the loss. They held possession longer, out-gained New York and had 11 more first downs, but also made blunders that allowed the Jets to have shortened field possession.
Atlanta punter Matt Bosher had his opening punt blocked in the first quarter, and Ryan had a fumble in the third quarter, both of which led to Folk field goals.
Smith also took advantage of a struggling Atlanta secondary. He connected with Jeff Cumberland and Kerley in the second quarter with touchdown passes that the Falcons backfield either failed to make the tackle on or blew the coverage. That helped atone from a nondescript performance from Powell, who had 12 carries for 38 yards.
The Falcons' loss comes at the worst possible time. They are now 1-4 (with all games decided by one possession) and four games behind the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Having missed the postseason just once (2009) since Ryan and Mike Smith arrived in 2008, the loss puts their playoff hopes on life support.
Tony Gonzalez , who had 10 catches for 97 yards en route to making a reception for the 200th straight game and passing Marvin Harrison for the sixth most receiving hards in history , summed up his team 's predicament after the game :
Falcons' Tony Gonzalez: "What are we going to do? Feel sorry for ourselves? I'm not throwing my hands up and saying the season is over."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) October 8, 2013
The Jets, meanwhile, are suddenly in the thick of the playoff hunt. At 3-2, they're only a game behind the AFC East-leading New England Patriots and are tied with the Miami Dolphins for second place in the division. For a team that was expected to be closer to the No. 1 pick than a playoff spot this season, nights like Monday have to be special.
Geno Smith (QB, New York Jets): A
Considering what the Jets ask of him, it's hard to play any better than Smith did on Monday night. He was accurate with the ball, completing all but four passes and staying within himself the entire contest. As noted by CBS Sports' Will Brinson, Smith is just the second rookie quarterback in history to complete at least 75 percent of his passes, throw three touchdowns and win in a road game.
It was a far cry from the player whose name had been bandied about in the media like he was destined to become the next Mark Sanchez. Smith had turned the ball over 11 times coming into the game, tied for the league lead with Eli Manning, but those numbers obscured the good he did. He nearly defeated the Patriots earlier this season in a similar drive but fell short and has now led the Jets to three wins in one-possession games.
We're certainly not done seeing the growing pains of Geno Smith. But outings like this are proof that he could be darn good if he reaches his peak.
|RB Bilal Powell||C|
|TE Jeff Cumberland||A-|
|WR Jeremy Kerley||A-|
|LB David Harris||B|
|DE Muhammad Wilkerson||A|
|DT Sheldon Richardson||A|
|CB Antonio Cromartie||B-|
Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons): A-
There isn't much fault here to be placed at Ryan's feet, either. He had a fumble earlier in the game and spent a majority of his night checking down, but putting up 28 points against this New York defense is commendable. The Jets came into Week 5 ranked as the fourth best defense in football, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA metric.
Atlanta's problem has come when trying to make plays down the field. Roddy White's injury has allowed defenses to put bracket coverages around Julio Jones, where they will allow him to catch balls underneath but do a good job of immediately tackling him. The Falcons' lack of consistent running game has also all but negated any play-action fakes they could use to create space.
Ryan did all he could on Monday and has done all he can this season. He's gone over 300 yards in four of the Falcons' five games and has thrown just three interceptions—none of them coming in the same game.
But until the club's other problems get fixed, his and the team's ceiling will be limited.
|RB Jacquizz Rodgers||C+|
|WR Julio Jones||B|
|TE Tony Gonzalez||A|
|DE Osi Umenyiora||B+|
|LB Stephen Nicholas||B-|
|CB Asante Samuel||B-|
What 's Next ?
The Jets will look to keep the good times rolling when they host the winless Steelers next Sunday . Atlanta is mercifully off in Week 6 before facing the Buccaneers in Week 7 .
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