Thursday, October 10, 2013

Film Review: Geno's latest game-winning drive


Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has a lot yet to prove as the New York Jets' franchise quarterback, but he showed this week that he won't be one to shy away from a big stage.

Smith's steady hand keyed a late scoring drive that edged the Jets over the host Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, 30-28. After the game, Smith described what was going through his head as he took over with less than two minutes to go, his defense having just relinquished the lead.

"Just to go out there, focus on my reads, stick to my fundamentals," he told ESPN's Lisa Salters.

That objective was evident in Smith's decision-making on the drive. On each play, he diagnosed the defense and found an area to exploit, remaining cognizant of the situation while projecting a calmness that spread to the other 10 Jets offensive players.

On the first play of the possession, New York lined up in a four-wide set, with Atlanta showing Tampa 2 coverage. The Jets have their wideouts in all-verticals, except for right boundary receiver Stephen Hill, who runs an in-breaking route.

Smith immediately knows that Hill will flash open after the middle linebacker drops back into his zone responsibility, making the throw-and-catch easy and allowing for some room to run after the reception.

The play gains 12 yards.

Knowing that Atlanta's safeties are set wider than usual to play the sidelines and that he has three timeouts in his pocket, Smith focuses on working the middle of the field. On the following play, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan tries to throw the rookie a curve ball.

With a first-down and in the no huddle, the Jets line up in the same formation. Atlanta's four-man front is aligned in a way that the blitzing slot cornerback should have a free path to the quarterback.

Prior to the snap, Atlanta's slot cornerback makes it fairly clear he's doing anything but covering the receiver in front of him by aligning off and peeking directly into the backfield. Smith notices, and finds the receiver on a slant right behind the free-blitzing corner for a 13-yard gain.

Following another completion to Stephen Hill on the next play, the Jets scurry up to the line just past midfield with less than fifty seconds left on the clock. Smith takes the shotgun snap and, upon finding no open receivers and sensing pressure, takes off without hesitation for an 8-yard gain.

The Jets were now within field goal range.

Taking a sack would have been a tremendous mistake, costing a timeout and dropping the Jets back into their own territory. Smith's awareness and understanding of the situation resulted in a first down in scoring range, with a clock stoppage.

A few plays later, Nick Folk kicked the game-winning field goal.

It was Smith's third game-winning drive in just five games, a habit that will quickly endear him to a fanbase eager to wash off two seasons of dysfunction and erratic quarterback play. Much is still to be proven, but one thing seems apparent: the Jets have a quarterback who won't shrink from the moment.

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