The New York Jets opened up their season in stunning fashion: a late comeback 18-17 win. As three and a half point underdogs, fans, along with Vegas, obviously didn't think a win against a mediocre Buccaneers team was impossible. But, a poised Geno Smith, a stoic Nick Folk, and a team that fought until the very end, set up the biggest surprise of the opening NFL weekend. More so than the final score, it was how the Jets won that made it shocking.
Tom Brady or Eli Manning down two points with less than a minute left? No problem. Geno Smith? No chance. Or so we thought. Granted, some will use the word "luck" to describe the Jets win. They were down two with 34 seconds remaining, and New York needed help from Bucs linebacker Lavonte David.
David's personal foul on Geno Smith put the Jets in position for a Nick Folk 48-yard field goal with two second left. Regardless, the NFL has too much parity, and is far too competitive, for any team to apologize for a win.
For all the bad publicity and criticism Rex Ryan received in the offseason, many of those sentiments clearly haven't made their way down to Gang Green's locker room. The Jets didn't play for Rex Ryan on Sunday as if he was a lame duck head coach. They battled, scraped, and were more physical than the Bucs.
In today's pass-happy, high-flying NFL, many will call what they saw on Sunday, "ugly." I won't try to convince you it was pretty. But, it showcased two strong defenses, combined with a pair of weak offenses. For the Jets, they held top running back Doug Martin to 64 total yards, and did a good job changing fronts to confuse Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. Rex Ryan predicted a top-five defense this season, and at least after week one, that statement may have some validity.
As for the offense, it clearly remains a work in progress, but also showed potential. Geno Smith exceeded expectations going 24 for 38 with 256 yards and a touchdown pass and an interception.
Yet, it was Smith's legs that highlighted how much more diverse he can make this offense than Mark Sanchez. Smith led the team with 47 rushing yards. Also, unlike a young Michael Vick, Smith wasn't looking to run first, he typically used it as a last resort. Geno Smith showed the ability to run a more developed and versatile offense than was ever run by Mark Sanchez. For a rookie in his first regular season game, Smith was impressive rolling out the pocket, and extending plays with positive results.
There were several "Ge-No!" chants across MetLife Stadium throughout Sunday. But, it's more important for fans to stay behind Smith when he hits those rookie roadblocks. Even though it was just one week, Smith showed enough to believe there's no benefit in ever going back to Mark Sanchez.
The Jets can't enjoy this win for long. They invade Foxborough, Massachusetts, tomorrow night to take on the Patriots. A tumultuous offseason for the Patriots was evident in a shaky week one performance. New England squeaked past the Bills on Sunday 23-21. This will be the first meeting between the two teams since New England's 49-19 shellacking of New York last Thanksgiving. It also was the birth of the "buttfumble." Geno Smith can thank Mark Sanchez for setting the bar very low heading into tomorrow night.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.