Geno Smith’s NFL debut was about to go down in disappointment. Then, the New York Jets rookie quarterback took off running and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the most boneheaded mistake of the game.
Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining after Lavonte David’s personal foul gave him the chance, and the Jets pulled out an improbable 18-17 victory in the season opener Sunday.
Trailing 17-15 with time running out, Smith scrambled for 10 yards and was shoved while he was out of bounds by David. The 15-yard penalty put the ball at the Buccaneers 30 and Folk won it.
The Jets jumped up and down on the field and on the sideline in exuberant celebration moment after things appeared dim for them. Rian Lindell had kicked a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left.
Smith, starting with Mark Sanchez out with a shoulder injury, had a fumble that led to a score and an interception, but was mostly solid. He went 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown to Kellen Winslow Jr. Smith also led New York with 47 yards rushing.
With the Jets up 15-14, New York’s defense couldn’t stop Tampa Bay from driving for the go-ahead score. A 37-yard catch by Vincent Jackson on third-and-10 – safety Dawan Landry whiffed on a tackle attempt – led to Lindell’s field goal.
The Jets also ruined the return of Darrelle Revis, their former star cornerback who was mostly quiet in his first game since suffering a season-ending knee injury at Miami last September.
Josh Freeman was 15 of 31 for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jackson finished with seven catches for 154 yards, and Doug Martin ran for 65 yards and a score on 24 carries.
Folk kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 15-14 lead with 5:05 left, capping a 14-play drive that chewed up more than six minutes. A defensive holding call on Leonard Johnson kept that drive alive.
Smith made his first really glaring mistake when he was hit by Mason Foster and fumbled near the goal line. The ball was recovered by Akeem Spence at the Jets 5, and Martin ran up the middle one play later to give Tampa Bay a 14-5 lead.
On the Jets’ next possession, Smith threw his first NFL interception when he overthrew Chris Ivory and right to David.
But Landry picked off Freeman, who was under heavy pressure from a blitzing Isaiah Trufant and threw into the hands of a waiting Landry.
Smith took a brutal sack by Foster on first down and lost 18 yards. But the rookie bounced back in a big way, driving the Jets downfield, helped in large part by a personal foul penalty on Mark Barron after a hit to the head of Jeremy Kerley, who was taken to the locker room. He later returned to the game.
On the touchdown, Winslow was wide open for a 7-yard reception that cut the Jets’ deficit to 14-12 with 34 seconds remaining in the half.
The Jets went up 2-0 midway through the opening quarter when Freeman couldn’t handle the snap at the 8. The football squirted into the end zone, and Freeman went chasing after it. Seeing Antwan Barnes about to fall on it for a touchdown, Freeman kicked it out of the end zone for a safety.
Tampa Bay took a 7-2 lead with just over a minute left in the first quarter on a 17-yard touchdown catch by Mike Williams.
Folk cut the deficit to 7-5 with a 43-yard field goal to cap a drive that stalled after a terrific play by Smith. On third-and-8 from the 42, the quarterback scrambled away from pressure, sprinted to his left and got a nice block from Winslow to pick up 13 yards.
Tampa Bay was called for five penalties in the first quarter, including two in a row for trying to call timeout. The Buccaneers finished with 13 penalties, including David’s game-changing late hit!!!