If there was ever an opportunity for a statement game from Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, Monday night on a national stage against a desperate Atlanta Falcons team was the perfect moment.
After the Jets defense surrendered 14 straight points in the fourth quarter and relinquished the lead for the first time in the game at 28-27, rookie signal-caller Geno Smith bailed the team out in a big way. Smith drove the Jets 56 yards on six plays and set up Nick Folk for the game winning 43-yard field goal as time expired. Ryan and company captured an unlikely victory and shrugged off a wave of negativity and criticism in the process.
The Jets seized the early momentum after forcing Matt Ryan’s unit into a three-and-out on the opening possession of the contest, and safety Antonio Allen flew through to block the ensuing punt and the Jets took over on the Atlanta 44-yard line.
Gang Green’s drive would stall at the Falcons’ four-yard line and Nick Folk booted through a 22-yarder to give the Jets the early 3-0 advantage. Atlanta would strike back assembling a ten play, 80 yard drive capped by Ryan’s shovel pass to Jason Snelling on 3rd-and-goal.
New York’s rookie commanded a touchdown drive of his own marching 67 yards on seven plays and found tight end Jeff Cumberland for a 20-yard score.
On the Jets’ next offensive possession, Smith connected with Cumberland again for a 47-yard pass down to Atlanta’s 16-yard line. On the next play wide receiver Jeremy Kerley hauled in a quick throw from Smith and dove in the end zone to extend the Jets’ lead to 17-7.
Just before the end of the half, Gang Green made a goal line stand for the ages as it stopped Atlanta on the one-yard line with no time remaining and raced to the locker room with a double digit advantage.
The Falcons wasted little time in closing the gap as Ryan directed an eight play 65-yard drive as Jacquizz Rogers waltzed into the end zone for a four-yard score. Two possessions later the Jets would add a field goal to make it 20-14 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.
At the start of the final period Gang Green forced the Falcons on a three-and-out and Kerley returned the ensuing punt 24 yards to Atlanta’s 38-yard line. After a 15-yard penalty for a horse collar tackle advanced the ball to the Falcons’ 25, power back Chris Ivory rumbled up the middle for 19-yards; hurdling his way in the air towards the goal line. Two plays later, Smith ran a play action fake and lobbed the ball in the back of the end zone for Kellen Winslow who kept both feet in bounds for the score. With a commanding 27-14 lead at their disposal, it seemed as if the Jets were on their way to a comfortable victory.
The Falcons had other plans in mind.
Ryan and company breezed down the field on ten plays for 80-yards, capped by a 19-yard run by Rogers. The Jets went three-and-out on their next offensive possession and gave the Falcons the ball back with 5:40 remaining in the contest. On the second play of the ensuing possession, Ryan flung a pass deep down the sideline for wide receiver Julio Jones, who reeled in a one-handed catch for 49-yards.
Seven plays later, Atlanta faced a 4th-and-3 from the Jets’ seven-yard line and linebacker DeMario Davis broke up a pass intended for Rogers and appeared to halt the Falcons in their tracks. A late flag hit the field and Davis was called for holding, giving Atlanta new life and it took advantage. Ryan found tight end Levine Toliolo for the go-ahead score.
The Jets were able to wrestle victory from the jaws of defeat as Smith engineered a brilliant eight play, 50-yard drive and Folk knocked his 44-yarder through the uprights at the buzzer to give New York the walk-off win.
The Jets improved to 3-2 while the Falcons dropped to 1-4 on the season. Gang Green is one-game back on the New England Patriots for first place in the division and faces the Pittsburgh Steelers this upcoming Sunday at MetLife Stadium.