EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Geno Smith rolled right, darted down the sideline and stepped out of bounds, knowing he and the New York Jets needed some major help to pull off a comeback victory.
Then came a sudden shove in his shoulder.
Smith hit the ground, and so did a few yellow penalty flags.
Lavonte David was called for a personal foul for his late hit on Smith, and Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining as the Jets pulled out an improbable 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener Sunday.
"I was like 'Holy cow! We've got a shot,'" Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I'll say this: The kid showed a great deal of poise. He ran for what he could, he got out of bounds, and the guy hit him out of bounds.
"It was the right call."
It was a roller-coaster sequence for the Jets and Buccaneers in the final moments. Folk kicked a 30-yard field goal to give New York a 15-14 lead with 5:05 left, but Ryan's defense couldn't close it out. Rian Lindell kicked a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left, putting Tampa Bay in what appeared to be great position for a last-minute win.
Smith and the Jets weren't done, though, thanks in large part to David's boneheaded mistake.
"I don't know what to say," David said softly in front of his locker. "They called a flag. I guess I hit him out of bounds. Everybody told to me to keep my head up. All the guys in here were very supportive."
Here are five reasons the Jets left MetLife Stadium with a win:
1. DAVID'S BIG MISTAKE: Trailing 17-15 with no timeouts and the clock ticking away, Smith scrambled for 10 yards to get the ball to the Buccaneers 45 — with Folk looking at a risky 63-yard attempt. But David inexplicably hit Smith, and the 15-yard penalty put the ball at the 30.
"I wouldn't have hit him if I didn't think he'd stay in bounds," David said. "They said he was out of bounds, so they called the play. To me, he was in bounds. I was definitely surprised about it (the penalty)."
After the game, David sat quietly on a stool as several teammates came over and patted him on the back. It did little to soothe David.
"That's just him playing football," safety Mark Barron said. "I'm sure in that situation, it's hard to stop. I'm sure he didn't mean to do it. We're not going to put the game on him."
2. FOLK HERO: After coming out on top in yet another training camp competition, Folk went 3 for 3 on field-goal attempts, including the game-winning 48-yarder. It was his fifth winning field goal since joining the Jets in 2010, but Folk said he was prepared to attempt a 63-yarder if he needed to. Once he saw the penalty flags on David, he knew he'd have an easier try.
"You just kick it like an extra point," Folk said he was thinking. "Make it look like every other kick."
During the last three summers, Folk has beaten out Nick Novak, Josh Brown, Billy Cundiff and Dan Carpenter.
"Go ahead and write it: 'Folk Hero,'" Ryan said. "We've seen it and I have a feeling we're going to see it again."
3. COOL GENO: Smith, starting with Mark Sanchez out with a shoulder injury, had a fumble that led to a score and an interception, but was mostly solid. He went 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown to Kellen Winslow Jr. Smith also led New York with 47 yards rushing.
"I love playing with a team like this because you don't have to go out there and try to be Superman," Smith said.
Both he and Ryan acknowledged that there are mistakes that need to be corrected, especially since Sanchez could be out several weeks. But, the Buccaneers came away impressed with the second-round draft pick.
"He stayed poised," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "I was sure when I was hitting him early on that he would get rattled. He kept hanging in. I said, 'How many more times do I (have) to hit you?'"
4. SLOPPY BUCS: David's mistake was hardly the only one the Buccaneers made. They were called for 13 penalties, including five in the first quarter. Two came on consecutive delay of game calls on Josh Freeman.
"There are a lot of different things that made us lose the game," McCoy said. "It wasn't that one penalty (by David)."
Freeman blamed some of the offense's early struggles on the helmet audio system failing to work properly.
"There were a number of times where the microphone went completely dead," Freeman said. "I couldn't hear anything."
5. REX'S DEFENSE: Despite the fourth-quarter breakdown that nearly cost them the game, the Jets' defense was mostly solid. The Buccaneers managed just 250 total yards, and Freeman was never able to get into a rhythm while finishing 15 of 31 for 210 yards and a TD and an interception.
Doug Martin was bottled up, too, running for just 65 yards and a TD on 24 carries.
For a team that lost Darrelle Revis — he made a mostly quiet return from a knee injury — the Jets allowed only three second-half points.
"Our job is just to not let people score," safety Dawan Landry said. "They don't score, they don't win. We've just got to do our job week in and out. Every week's going to be a challenge. We're going to be up for it, though."
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