Geno Smith had a good game after being benched last week. Credit: Getty Images
They live to play another day.
The Jets are still mathematically alive in the playoff race at 6-7 following Sunday's 37-27 win over the Raiders.
Against a very bad Raiders team, the Jets looked explosive on offense after struggles sustaining drives over the past three weeks. But on Sunday, they were able to move the ball in the air and on the ground.
The Jets opened the scoring with a 41-yard field goal by Nick Folk on the game's opening drive, then rebounded from a Geno Smith interception on their second drive in spectacular fashion. After a 30-yard completion to tight end Kellen Winslow and a 3-yard gain by running back Bilal Powell, Smith lofted a ball into double coverage for what looked like another possible interception. But somehow wide receiver Jeremy Kerley leaped high above his coverage for a 25-yard touchdown pass.
It was the first passing touchdown thrown by Smith since Oct. 20. For Kerley, who hadn't played since Nov. 3 due to an elbow injury, his first quarter snag was his third touchdown of the season.
The Jets never looked back from their 10-0 lead, in part due to a defensive effort that rattled Raiders rookie quarterback Matt McGloin and second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who received a single series in the first quarter.
A 20-3 halftime lead never dwindled down below 10 points as the offense carried the Jets.
A touchdown run of eight yards by Geno Smith in the third quarter and a rumbling 15-yard run by Chris Ivory midway through the fourth quarter propelled the Jets through some second half defensive miscues.
Next week, the Jets travel to Carolina for another must-win game against the Panthers, a team likely to make the playoffs out of the NFC South.
What we learned ...
1. The Geno report
A week after he led the Jets offense to just two first downs in one half of play, Smith was better but far from perfect. He had some plays, like the game's opening drive where he faced a stout blitz, pumped and then stepped up in the pocket to complete a 32-yard pass to Santonio Holmes. On the next drive, the struggling Smith came out. One play after he was nearly picked off, Smith was intercepted by linebacker Kevin Burnett when he locked in on Jeremy Kerley with 5:58 left in the first quarter. He'd let the game settle down, adding a touchdown run of eight yards in the third quarter, for his best performance since Week 5. Smith finished 16-of-25 for 219 yards with one passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and an interception.
2. Platooning Reed
After three weeks of struggles, the Jets finally did what they should have done all along and played veteran safety Ed Reed in passing situations. It worked, as Reed wasn't exposed in run defense and he did well in pass coverage. He had an interception with 5:54 left in the second quarter. Three plays after Reed's interception a Nick Folk field goal gave the Jets a 13-3 lead. Reed looked fresh in the role and the secondary also limited the big plays through the air, keeping the Raiders' wide receivers in front of them for the most part. The Jets have found a solution that gets Reed on the field in a role where he maximizes his talents and yet second-year safety Antonio Allen is allowed to develop.
3. Running wild
With their top-two running backs, Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, inactive with injuries, the Raiders turned to fullback Marcel Reece to lift what was the league's fifth-best ground game. Reece, who had 77 rushing yards on 22 carries coming into the game, exploded. His 113 yards rushing on 19 carries bested his career-high of 103 yards set last year against the Saints. It is a worrisome trend for the Jets, who boast the league's best run defense statistically.