Spirits higher for Jets after ending skid

Geno Smith took some razzing from his coaches as they watched

film of the New York Jets’ victory.

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.”

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org