Geno and the Jets
Early in this game you could this crowd desperately wanted Geno Smith to give them hope that he was the future; the franchise quarterback that all Jets fans had hoped Mark Sanchez would become five years ago when he made his debut in Houston. New York's first offensive play of the season had Smith throwing out of the shotgun, where he completed his first pass to Jeremy Kerley for a 26-yard gain, and just like that there was a palpable buzz in the stands.
It was in the second quarter where things began to turn. In the shadow of his own end zone, Geno Smith rolled out and instead of taking a sack, he tried to get off a pass which was stripped and recovered by Tampa Bay. It was the very next drive where Smith overthrew his receiver and was intercepted by LeVonte David and just like that, MetLife Stadium began to deflate. That's all it took. Two Sanchez-like mistakes by a rookie quarterback in the second quarter of his first career start and fans could be heard shouting for Matt Simms. Really. However it was late in the first half where Jets fans were allowed to hope again, if only for a moment. Geno Smith led the Jets down the field and converted his first career touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow, cutting the deficit to 14-12.
Trailing for nearly the entire game, New York was within striking distance down two late in the fourth quarter. Smith, who had gotten virtually no protection from his offensive line, had been hit hard over and over again yet he kept getting back up and making plays with both his arm and his legs. Smith, who was the Jets leading rusher, had to virtually win this game by himself, and he put the Jets in a position to do that.
With five minutes remaining, Smith once again got the Jets in field goal range where Folk drilled what seemed to be the game-winning field goal, which put New York up 15-14. The game appeared to be over until a third down catch and run by Vincent Jackson put the Bucs in field goal range, virtually killing the Jets chances of getting an Opening Day win. Down two, 34 seconds left, from their own 20 yard line, no timeouts and a rookie quarterback leading the way, it was over. Or so it seemed. After a pass to Kellen Winslow brought the ball to around midfield, Smith used his mobility to get the edge and gain nearly ten yards, but LaVonte David, who picked off Smith earlier, pushed the rookie QB once his was already out of bounds, resulting in a huge 15-yard penalty. Nick Folk would go on to make the game-winning field goal on the very next play and the Jets won it.
As the players entered the tunnel after a thrilling victory, chants of "Geno! Geno! Geno!" reigned throughout MetLife Stadium. While it may only be one game, and yes, there was a lot of luck involved, Geno Smith's debut performance has allowed Jets fans to hope again. Is he the quarterback of the future? Only time will tell, but he passed the first test.