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Geno Smith Faces Reckoning Already

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Jets quarterback Geno Smith is brought down by Patriots linebacker Ron Ninkovich in the first quarter of Thursday's 13-10 loss. Smith was sacked four times in the game. Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith is brought down by Patriots linebacker Ron Ninkovich in the first quarter of Thursday's 13-10 loss. Smith was sacked four times in the game. Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

After a thrilling win against Tampa Bay, quarterback Geno Smith played more like a rookie in Thursday’s 13-10 loss against the New England Patriots. How he bounces back could determine whether he will be the Jets’ long-term solution at the position.

Smith made the biggest play in the opening victory, aided by a penalty, but it might’ve been too much to expect a quarterback in his second NFL start to do so again. Yet that was the situation offensive coordinator Marty Mornhiweg put the youngster in as the Jets’ defense and the Patriots’ own lack of weapons kept giving the Jets chance after chance in the fourth quarter to erase the three-point deficit.

After keeping his poise in the first game against Tampa Bay and the first three quarters of the Patriots’ game, Smith had a total collapse. He threw three interceptions, all of which were bad throws. He tried to force the ball into double coverage to Santonio Holmes and underthrew Stephen Hill on the pick that ended the game.

But maybe he shouldn’t have been put into that position: the run game was working against New England. It had been bottled up against Tampa Bay, but against the Patriots, they ran for 129 yards on 32 carries. Much-maligned right guard Vladimir Ducasse even pancaked massive Vince Wilfork on Bilal Powell’s third-quarter touchdown run. 

Yet the run was abandoned in the final 15 minutes. Chris Ivory, who had 52 yards on 12 carries and showed he could move the pile against New England, got only one attempt in the final quarter. According to stats in Rich Cimini’s ESPN column, the Jets called 10 pass plays in the fourth, with six traveling at least 10 yards, only one of which was completed. A young quarterback might’ve been served better by more screen passes to his running backs.

Mornhiweg, a proponent of the West Coast offense, relies more on the passing game which might not be a fit for such an inexperienced quarterback. Smith held the ball too long trying to make a play was sacked four times. That’s nine for the first two games, a pace for 72 during the season. The only plus is he’s been able to hang onto the ball.

As if that wasn’t enough to think about, general manager John Idzik said over the weekend that even with Mark Sanchez placed on limited injured reserve Smith isn’t guaranteed to be the starter past this Sunday against Buffalo. So now he has to worry about Matt Simms or Brady Quinn taking his job.

Smith said all the right things after the game: “We didn’t get it. One thing I can tell you is that we came out and competed hard and put ourselves in position to win it late, but with the costly mistakes that were completely on me, we just didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility and we’ll get better from this.”

The quarterback wasn’t helped in the early going by a Stephen Hill fumble and six drops. Three were by Clyde Gates, including a low, but catchable, ball in the end zone, one of Smith’s best throws of the game. At least the rookie didn’t outwardly lose his cool as opposed to veteran Tom Brady, who was also hurt by poor receiver play. 

Forgetting about the gap in experience, another big difference is that Brady had a safety valve in Julian Edelman, a player he knew would get a reception whenever he needed it, even if it was just a couple of yards to keep the chains moving. 

In the past, Wayne Chrebet and Jerricho Cotchery served that purpose for the Jets. Smith hasn’t had enough time to develop chemistry and find his go-to player. It might be Jeremy Kerley, who was out with a concussion against the Pats, or it could be tight end Kellen Winslow Jr.

But most importantly, Smith has to watch the turnovers against Buffalo or he’ll be the one turned over.