Much like throughout the 2012 season, the New York Jets offense struggled to get anything going on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Unlike much of last season, however, there's actually reason to be excited about what we saw from the Jets offense.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith got his first NFL start, and got off to a rough start. He went 7-for-17 with an interception, but once Geno hit his lowest point, he rebounded. From there, he went 17-for-21 and threw the touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Winslow.
That's the kind of mental toughness we didn't see much from Mark Sanchez in recent years.
"I thought Geno did a really nice job," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said after the win. "Where he really helped us was when he ran. He made some big plays running. They did a good job with their coverage. They have a lot of tremendous players in the back end and they have a good pass rush. He had to make some plays, and those plays helped us win the game."
Smith added six rushes for 47 yards, including the most important run of the game, a 10-yard scramble where the rookie quarterback was hit late out-of-bounds by linebacker Lavonte David.
He led two drives in the fourth quarter to take a lead. The first was 14 plays for 65 yards, the second was a four-play drive that moved 50 yards (including a 15-yard penalty). Both drives ended in field goals.
The name of the game on those drives, as it was for Smith throughout the day, was poise. Smith maintained his composure under some fierce pressure from the Buccaneers defensive line. On the day, Smith was sacked five times, and he even fumbled on one of those sacks, allowing the Buccaneers to recover at the five-yard line.
"I was sure when I was hitting him early on he would be rattled, but the guy just kept sitting in there. 'Man, how many more times I got to hit you?'" Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "He definitely stayed poised and made plays when necessary. He took a lot of big hits today. He always bounced back up and went and made plays. That guy has a bright future."
While Rex Ryan may not immediately change his tune and declare Geno Smith the permanent starter, but Smith's performance in those two must-score scenarios proved that he's much closer to the answer at quarterback than one Mark Sanchez.
Geno won't always have players like Lavonte David making stupid mistakes on the other team, however. He'll have to eliminate his own mistakes, and get a bit more help from an anemic running game (Smith was the Jets' leading rusher, with 47 yards) if the Jets are going to make any noise this season.
The author is solely responsible for the content.