COMMENTARY | The Geno Smith we saw Week 4 in Tennessee looked like a clueless rookie. The Geno Smith we saw under center for the New York Jets on Monday night in Atlanta looked like an effective NFL quarterback. A turnover machine turned prime time hero in just eight days.
We won't send Geno to Canton just yet, as judging by this game would be the same as judging by just last week's game. This is just the latest chapter in what has been a seesaw season for the rookie quarterback; it just happens to be an excellent chapter.
The beat up Falcons defense was no match for Smith, who completed 16 of 20 passes en route to becoming just the second rookie to ever win a road game on Monday Night Football. Geno finished the evening with 199 passing yards and three touchdowns. He was efficient all over the field, leading the Jets to a 30-28 victory and a 3-2 record.
What's best of all for gang green? For the first time in his short career, Smith didn't turn the ball over. In fact, Geno rarely put the ball in danger at all. He got more than adequate protection and picked apart the Atlanta defensive backfield, scattering completions to eight different receivers.
Although Smith only threw the ball twenty times, it was the quality and timing of the plays that makes it worth noting. Four of those passes came on the final drive of the game, not including a scramble for a first down. Smith led the Jets on an eight play, 55-yard drive in the two minute drill to set up Nick Folk for the game winning 43-yard field goal as time expired.
Geno engineered a tight ship on offense with a savvy we would expect from a more veteran QB. He appears to have learned from his mistakes, showing poise and composure in the pocket in a way we haven't seen in the NFL.
Due to the elite level the Jets defense is playing at, Smith is oftentimes not going to be asked to do too much; to throw the ball but not put his defense in a bad position. Not to manage the game-- just not lose it. Calling him a game manager would be devaluing his ability to throw downfield based on our definition of the word in football. If I had to put a label on it, the Jets do want Smith to use his impressive arm strength and throw the ball. Nevertheless, sling it with caution.
The Jets defense is the type that can win you games even if the offense is having an off day and Geno knows rule number one is taking care of the ball. All the better Rex Ryan sleeps at night thinking he has a guy that can not only do that, but go and get the win too.
Credit needs sending Marty Mornhinweg's way for his dynamic game plan that didn't force Smith to do too much. Including 21 from Smith himself, the Jets ran for 118 yards and opened up the passing game because of it. Mike Goodson made his season debut and ran effectively along with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. We also saw a variety of formations that created matchup problems in the Jets favor which helped so many guys get involved in the offense.
We knew before this game that we would learn something about the Jets rookie quarterback. Even with the game in Foxboro, the most pressure on him so far came in the Georgia Dome with the entire country watching. Smith opened eyes and answered the bell as he and his team continue to surprise the league. I really do not want to overplay it here, but remember that if he had another turnover-filled game we would all be trashing him today. For that, I do not say praise him after this game but a sense of optimism for Jets fans is 100% warranted.
Seeing your rookie quarterback go on the road and lead you to a win in the clutch has to speak volumes. Geno Smith has a ton of confidence in himself and it shows not just on the field, but off it. There could have been a drop off after the debacle in Tennessee. He could have folded under pressure but this time he didn't. Progress from New England and Tennessee was on display in Atlanta; everybody likes a comeback road win.
Geno may lose the Jets games in the future but at least we know there's potential to win one when it counts. He'll turn the ball over too but Geno needs to harness that and if he can, the Jets will be in every game. Who knows? Maybe gang green starts to win a couple more turnover battles. For this week the skeptics are silent, Geno Smith is Mr. Clutch and don't look now, but the New York Jets could be contenders heading into their Week 10 bye. First up, it's Big Ben and the 0-4 Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
Brian Sausa is a Queens, New York native who contributes on both the Jets and Knicks for Yahoo Sports. An intern in the UAlbany Sports Information Dept. who previously covered NY area sports for New York Sports World.
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