EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Geno Smith completely lost his cool — and maybe a bit of his grip on the New York Jets' starting quarterback job.
Frustrated after a third straight loss and calls for his backup increasing, Smith was caught by a TV camera yelling an expletive at a heckler in the stands as he walked off the MetLife Stadium field following a 24-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
"Before we start this off, first of all I want to apologize if any kids saw me saying any negative remarks walking off the field," Smith said to open his postgame news conference. "I kind of let my temper get the best of me in that situation, and it's a part of my learning process."
Smith had two more turnovers as chants of "We Want Vick!" echoed throughout the stadium at times, perhaps none louder than after he was intercepted by Darius Slay in the fourth quarter.
"That stuff, to me, is B.S.," wide receiver Eric Decker said of the chants.
Asked what he thought when he heard the calls for Vick, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was blunt.
"Shut up," Richardson said. "If that's the case, produce a child who can come and make it to the NFL and let's see what he's got. Other than that, just shut up."
Vick didn't get into this one, and coach Rex Ryan confirmed that Smith will start again for the Jets (1-3) next Sunday at San Diego despite his struggles.
"No, I'm not going to replace him," Ryan said. "I feel good about Geno. I think he will get it turned (around). He's a tough, resilient young man. I think we're going to win. We'll win soon."
Smith was 17 of 33 for 209 yards, including an 11-yard TD pass to Decker, but threw an interception and lost a fumble — giving him seven turnovers in four games.
That's what has many fans frustrated, tired of the mistakes being made by the second-year quarterback.
"He's got to keep his composure, no matter how frustrated he gets," Richardson said. "But it happens."
Despite the skid and the struggles, the Jets players insist they still believe in Smith as the starting quarterback.
"One hundred percent, yeah," Decker said. "It's hard to see him take, really, all the criticism. It's not just him. Everyone is doing this together. ... We've got to make some plays for him, take some pressure off him."
Matthew Stafford got the Lions up and down the field — even without Calvin Johnson being much of a factor.
Stafford threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score and the Lions overcame Johnson being limited by an ankle injury. Jeremy Ross and Eric Ebron caught scoring passes for the Lions, who are off to a 3-1 start for the second straight season. Stafford finished 24 of 34 for 293 yards, and appeared unfazed by his top receiver being in and out of the game.
Johnson was clearly impeded by his injured ankle, which had him questionable for the game. He had just two catches for 12 yards, but Golden Tate picked up for him, catching eight passes for 116 yards.
"We knew Calvin was going to be limited today and we were hoping to not have to use him unless it was an emergency," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "I think we responded well."
The Jets, who made it close on Chris Johnson's 35-yard run with 6:58 left, fell to 1-3 for the first time in Ryan's six seasons as coach.
New York stayed in it by scoring on its first possession of the second half, an 11-yard touchdown from Smith to Decker midway through the third quarter that made it 17-10.
But the Lions reclaimed control on Stafford's 1-yard run for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Detroit a 24-10 lead. Stafford's run — upheld by video review — capped a 14-play, 90-yard scoring drive.
"We have the ability," Decker said. "It's about executing the plays. Period."
NOTES: On New York's next possession after Slay's interception, former Jets safety James Ihedigbo had a strip sack of Smith on New York's next possession. The fumble was recovered by Darryl Tapp. ... Jets WR David Nelson (left ankle) and S Calvin Pryor (thigh) left and didn't return. CB Antonio Allen also had a significant limp after the game. Lions RB Joique Bell was being evaluated for a head injury, while running back Theo Riddick and fullback Montell Owens left with hamstring injuries. Neither coach had any updates.
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