New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith showed progression as the game went on, then changed the outcome when it seemed improbable.
At the conclusion of a 10-yard scramble with seven seconds remaining, Smith drew a personal foul penalty that set Nick Folk up for a game-winning 48- yard field goal, lifting New York to a thrilling 18-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on season-opening Sunday.
The Jets defense made a critical mistake when it left Vincent Jackson uncovered on the possession prior, with the receiver's 37-yard catch allowing Rian Lindell to kick a go-ahead 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left.
Behind by two points and time against him, Smith fired a 25-yard pass to Kellen Winslow and spiked the ball to stop the clock prior to his scamper that set New York (1-0) up for the winning score.
"I stay focused on the game, whatever the situation is," said Smith. "You've got to think positive and try and figure out a way to pull it out."
Smith ended 24-of-38 for 256 yards through the air, tossing a touchdown and an interception. He also led the Jets rushing attack with 47 yards on six carries.
"I thought Geno did a really nice job for a lot of it. I'll tell you where he really helped us, he ran," said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "He made some big plays running."
Lavonte David committed the late hit on Smith after the quarterback was already out of bounds, the 13th penalty of the afternoon for Tampa Bay (0-1).
The boneheaded play also wasted an extremely productive day from Jackson, who tore up New York's secondary to total 154 yards on seven receptions, while also spoiling Darrelle Revis's return to Metlife Stadium.
Revis, less than 12 months removed from ACL surgery on his left knee, looked spry as ever while diving for deflections in his Tampa Bay debut. The Bucs acquired the All-Pro cornerback last April from the Jets for two draft picks.
"I feel good getting back out there, just doing what I love to do," said Revis. "I was just more excited to be out there with my teammates. They've been anxious, I've been anxious, so it was a great feeling."
Josh Freeman had an up and down game, throwing for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 15-of-31 passes. His best play of the day was when he found an uncovered Jackson on 3rd-and-10 with under two minutes remaining, which set up what appeared to be the winning score.
The teams traded empty possessions in the third quarter and the Bucs remained in front, 14-12, until Smith orchestrated a 14-play, 65-yard scoring drive midway through the fourth.
The march was sparked after the Bucs' Leonard Johnson was called for a holding penalty on what would have been a Jets three-and-out. Instead the drive continued, and Smith showed poise by completing 5-of-6 throws to get the Jets to the Tampa Bay 12, where Folk connected on a 30-yard field goal to give New York a 15-14 lead with 5:09 remaining.
The game was sloppy offensively early, especially for Tampa. Freeman needed to use two timeouts in the first two minutes because of complications with the mic in his helmet, and Tampa committed four penalties on its opening set. Then, pinned deep in its own end a series later, Jeremy Zuttah snapped the ball when Freeman wasn't looking. The ball squirted into the end zone and Freeman conceded a safety by kicking it out of bounds.
However, they finally got things going late in the first. Starting from the Jets 44, Tampa got into the end zone on five plays, with Freeman throwing past Revis' replacement, rookie Dee Millner, to connect with Mike Williams for a 17-yard score and put the Bucs in charge of a 7-2 lead by quarter's end.
Smith was able to motor the Jets down the field on their first drive of the second quarter, with his 13-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 highlighting a 13-play march and setting up Folk for a 43-yard field goal. The rookie made some mistakes, however, on his next two series.
Mason Foster stripped him of the football with the Jets pinned back deep in their own end, and the Bucs capitalized on the recovery by scoring one play later when Doug Martin wiggled five yards into the end zone to lift the Bucs' advantage to 14-5.
Smith was then intercepted on his next touch, but took advantage of another opportunity after Dawan Landry picked off an air-mailed throw from Freeman. With the Jets set up in Bucs territory, Smith fired a pair of completions to Winslow, the second resulting in a 7-yard touchdown that marked the first of his career and sent New York into the break trailing, 14-12.
Winslow, making his Jets debut, led the team in catches with seven for 79 yards ... Santonio Holmes, who had missed the preseason while recovering from a Lisfranc injury that ended his 2012 campaign, started at wide receiver for New York but made just one catch for 13 yards ... Williams had four receptions and 52 yards for Tampa ... The Jets outgained the Bucs, 304-250 ... Tampa Bay's penalties amounted to 102 yards.