In one of the most controversial games of the 2013 NFL regular season, the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots 30-27 in overtime on Sunday. The game was ultimately influenced by a questionable enforcement of a penalty that had never previously been enforced.
As difficult as it is to overlook, the Jets' victory over the Patriots shouldn't be defined by the controversial call.
The ruling came on a 56-yard field-goal attempt by Jets kicker Nick Folk that ended up being wide left. Patriots rookie Chris Jones was called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after pushing his own teammate into the defensive line.
Many were outraged, while others defended the call. One way or another, it was controversial.
Unfortunately for those who believe the penalty was senseless, the game's over.
What may be most unfortunate of all is the fact that the meaning of the Jets' victory over the Patriots will be lost in the commotion. The truth of the matter is, this win was as important as any other from a high-stakes Week 7.
Not only did the Jets' victory pulled them to within one game of the division lead in the AFC East, but it was a sign of New York getting back to the basics.
Back to What Works
In 2009 and 2010, the Jets reached the AFC Championship Game with elite defensive play and a ground-and-pound approach on offense. In recent years, the Jets have struggled to develop an offensive rhythm due to the departure of reliable running backs.
Against the Patriots, the Jets got back to what works.
The Jets ran the ball 52 times, picking up 177 yards and a touchdown. Chris Ivory led the charge with 104 yards on 34 carries, and Geno Smith added six attempts for 32 yards and a score.
An average of 3.4 yards per carry isn't spectacular, but the approach is exactly what New York needs to return to. Ivory and Bilal Powell may not be established stars, but they're the type of grind-it-out backs that New York can trust.
By pounding the rock, the Jets established the pace of the game and dominated time of possession at 46:13 to 23:40. This helped to keep New York's defense fresh and it alleviated the pressure from Smith, who was strong again.
In the end, helping Smith should be the Jets' primary focus.
Geno Smith's Progression
Over the course of the past decade, the NFL has progressively become a quarterback-driven league. Having a strong field general has always been important, but in recent seasons, the number of high-octane offenses has increased.
Fortunately for New York, Smith has begun to show signs of being a franchise player.
Against New England, Smith was 17-of-33 for 233 yards, one passing touchdown, an interception and a rushing score. He was poised during clutch situations and continued to make plays in the fourth quarter.
On a Jets team that has a defense that is strong enough to remain in any game, that fourth-quarter prowess is critical.
Smith now has season totals of 1,723 yards, eight touchdowns, 11 interceptions and two running scores. Those aren't extraordinary numbers, but for a first-year quarterback—and no, not the once-in-a-lifetime 2012 type—they're strong.
So is his growing list of victories.
Smith has now outdueled Tom Brady of the Patriots, Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, EJ Manuel of the Buffalo Bills and Josh Freeman, then of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For a first-year quarterback whose season is all about development, leading the Jets to 4-3 is a giant step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, many will ignore the impact of this game and look at a controversial penalty.