Jets' spirits high after ending losing streak
This time, it wasn't for a turnover. It was for the rookie quarterback acting like a tough guy.
''It probably won't happen again,'' a sheepish Smith said Monday.
It was early in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 37-27 win over the Oakland Raiders when Smith scrambled up the middle on third-and-5 and scampered 32 yards before lowering his shoulder like a running back and taking a hard pop from Brandian Ross.
''It's like, 'Really, kid?''' coach Rex Ryan said. ''Again, I think the competitor in you, you love seeing that competitive fight and that competitive fire, but no, you're a quarterback in the National Football League. It's tough enough to stay healthy anyway, let alone putting yourself at that kind of risk, and that was an unnecessary risk, so he has to learn that.''
Smith's teammates loved it, even if the coaches would have preferred to see their young quarterback drift out of bounds and avoid the hit.
''It was not so much to send a message, but I just wanted to play hard,'' Smith said. ''Play hard and never back down and I don't think that was a smart thing to do, but in that moment, it's what I did.''
It was one of the few missteps by Smith, who also threw his 20th interception, but had his best game in weeks by throwing for a touchdown and running for another as the Jets (6-7) set a season high for points.
With the win, New York kept pace in the playoff race in the AFC.
''Every game's a playoff game for us, man,'' rookie defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said. ''That's how we have to look at it.''
Next up: Cam Newton and the Panthers (9-4) in Carolina next Sunday.
''The spirits are higher, but for me it's the same work week,'' Smith said. ''I'm starting to prepare for Carolina, watching tape on them today and also made some corrections from the previous game and just got back to work as normal, as we always do.''
The Jets had a bit of a role reversal Sunday, with Marty Mornhinweg's offense making up for an uncharacteristically leaky defense.
''Normally, a big strength of ours is our gap integrity in the run,'' Ryan said. ''Obviously, we had a couple of issues in that, so clearly moving forward that has to be a strength, not a weakness.''
New York entered Sunday ranked as the No. 1 defense against the run, but allowed a 63-yard touchdown run to Marcel Reece and gave up 150 yards rushing. The Raiders were down their top three running backs because of injuries, so they had to turn to Reece, their fullback.
He finished with a career-high 123 yards rushing, including the long TD run, and left the Jets' proud run defense - and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar - a bit miffed.
''Yeah,'' Richardson said, ''Dunbar's a little hot at us.''
The Jets fell from No. 1 to No. 2 overall in run defense, behind their next opponent, the Panthers.
''That long run, it's actually embarrassing anytime you give up a run that long,'' Ryan said. ''Sometimes you can give up a pass that way, you feel bad about it. But, it almost like rips your heart out (when) you give up a run of that distance. That's kind of how we take it.''
Ryan raved about how Smith was a true dual threat Sunday, that low shoulder aside, by using his athletic ability to make things happen with his legs when there was nothing there in the passing lanes.
Smith was 16 of 25 for 219 yards passing, and added 50 yards on five carries while running and throwing for touchdowns in the third game this season.
''Marty dialed up a few of those plays where I was able to use my legs more and get outside the pocket and read some plays downfield,'' Smith said, ''but I just think the execution was better overall.''
Smith's four rushing touchdowns are the most by a rookie quarterback in team history, and tie him for fifth by a Jets quarterback in a season. The 32-yard run was the third-longest rush by a quarterback in franchise history, behind Al Dorow's 40-yarder in 1961 and a 39-yarder by Joe Namath in 1966.
''Anytime you talk about putting a defense on their heels, when you're throwing it and now all of a sudden you take off with it, it presents a lot to a defense,'' Ryan said. ''Obviously, with this kid we're getting ready to play, Cam Newton is a big, fast kid back there. He's got a great arm too.
''That's going to present problems.''