In the first game of the first formal week of preseason, there were any number of possible heroes one could pick from the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts. So it's only natural that the player doing a celebratory fist pump after a clutch play was...a backup kicker.
Andrew Furney, an drafted free agent out of Washington State, kicked a 51-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining to give the Jets a 13-10 win over the Colts in their preseason opener.
Furney's kick capped off a nine-play, 28-yard drive that ended a deadlock that existed since early in the second quarter. Jets third-string quarterback Matt Simms completed two passes and running backs Alex Green and Daryl Richardson inched the ball up the field to help fans and players alike void a preseason overtime.
Indianapolis received the ball with 1:08 remaining, but quarterback Chandler Harnish was strip-sacked by IK Enemkpali and the Jets recovered. Simms kneeled down twice to close out the contest at MetLife Stadium.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News highlighted the press box's excitement over the game's conclusion:
Undrafted rookie K Andrew Furney nails a 51-yard FG... sending press box into celebratory chaos. Jets lead 13-10 with 1:08 left #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) August 8, 2014
The Colts and Jets each held their starters to minimal action. The first and fourth preseason games are typically ones where the coaching staff attempts to get players out healthy over all other goals.
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was on the field for just one drive, while his Jets counterpart Geno Smith was in for two. Luck completed four of his five passes for 53 yards, leading the first-team offense deep into the New York end zone before a poor Jonotthan Harrison snap on 3rd-and-5 went for a fumble and halted the drive.
Adam Vinatieri hit a 39-yard field goal to give the Colts a 3-0 lead. Luck and T.Y. Hilton seemed to pick right up where they left off, with the wideout catching three balls for 38 yards in his brief stint on the field. FantasyGuru.com's Twitter feed was already looking forward to their regular-season connections:
Andrew Luck looked great, but he typically does. Big drive for TY Hilton. Donte Moncrief as #3 with Wayne sitting.— FantasyGuru.com (@Fantasy_Guru) August 7, 2014
While it took one extra drive, Smith was technically able to match Luck score for score. After the Jets' first drive stalled out after a single first down, the second-year signal-caller completed two passes and scampered for a 10-yard gain as part of a seven-play, 27-yard drive capped off by a 51-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
Smith with 33 yards on 4-of-6 passing. The 10-yard scramble was his only run of the day. While many wondered what that would mean for Smith's battle with Michael Vick, technical difficulties of NFL Preseason Pass rendered some unable to watch the game. Thus, we get analyses like this from Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke:
For what it's worth, Smith looked fine, albeit unspectacular. He was not quite the "10 times" better that Vick proclaimed earlier this week.
"He's going to be great," Vick told reporters Tuesday. "He's going to be 10 times better than where he was last year, and I'm looking forward to it."
Smith also, as expected, seems to have a clear advantage over Vick at the moment. Smith received two first-team series against only one for the former Pro Bowler, who also worked with the second team.
That said, Vick's one series was an awfully successful one. Taking the ball at his own 20, Vick helped lead a methodical 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that tied the score at 10-10 after a Matt Hasselbeck touchdown throw. He scrambled out of the pocket on a broken play for 15 yards, completed a couple short passes and Chris Johnson eventually went in for a one-yard score.
Vick's other drive ended in a three-and-out. He finished 3-of-6 for 17 yards, adding 19 yards on three carries. ESPN's Skip Bayless is already bellowing from his perch that Vick gives the Jets a better chance to win:
I know it's just the first half of the 1st preseason game. But Michael Vick would give the Jets a much better chance to win than Geno.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) August 8, 2014
Even with the focus on the Jets' quarterback battle, it may be the running back spot that proves more interesting. Neither Johnson nor Chris Ivory were very effective running the ball but the former's versatility proved a useful skill. Johnson, who like Vick signed this offseason as a free agent, caught two passes for 16 yards and was the team's leading receiver for a brief period.
The former Titans star may wind up seeing extended playing time with the first team this week in practice. Ivory exited in the second quarter with a rib injury and did not return. The severity of his injury was not clear at this time, but it might be an opportunity for Johnson.
The Jets wound up finding some success in the running game during the second half. Green led the way with 29 yards on seven carries, while Richardson rushed the ball nine times for 27 yards. Rich Cimini of ESPN was impressed with Green:
Alex Green looks good. Showing some burst to the outside. Battling Richardson for 5th RB spot. #nyj— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) August 8, 2014
For Indianapolis, the preseason is shaping up much more like a standard affair. There is a clear hierarchy through most of their roster, and it showed with a slightly cleaner game on both sides of the ball.
Hasselbeck spelled Luck and was excellent for much of the first half. He was responsible for Indy's only touchdown, a 12-yard pass to running back Dan Herron. Hasselbeck and Herron proved something of a formidable duo, as the backup back caught six balls for 36 yards as the Colts tried to get him involved often.
A former sixth-round pick, Herron also led the team with 26 rushing yards. For what it ultimately matters, the Ohio State product was much more effective than starter Trent Richardson, who was held to 13 yards his five carries. Larry Hawley of Fox 59 envisions Herron as a third-down back:
BOOM! Herron gets the first touchdown of the preseason. His chance of becoming the @Colts third back gets a boost.— Larry Hawley (@Fox59Larry) August 7, 2014
Overall, the evening was one filled with little excitement on either side of the ball. Neither team threw an interception, and though there were five total fumbles, only one went to the other team. The only play longer than 30 yards was a 45-yard reception by Da'Rick Rogers on the Colts' touchdown drive.
Then again, it's the preseason. Why not have the game's most exciting moment come on the leg of a largely unheralded kicker?
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.