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Sunday, November 17, 2013
Jets lose because of QB, not D&B

By Rich Cimini
ESPN.com

 

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- There's no truth to the rumor that Geno Smith was so bad at skee ball that he was replaced by Matt Simms.

Now, seriously: The New York Jets weren't blown out Sunday by the Buffalo Bills because they spent a couple of hours Saturday afternoon at a Dave & Buster's in a Buffalo suburb -- a team field trip that has garnered far too much attention. No, the Jets lost 37-14 because Smith was terrible, continuing a five-game regression that could blow up their playoff chances.

The scary part for the Jets is they have no viable alternative at quarterback. Simms is too inexperienced, and David Garrard has been in moth balls too long, leaving them little choice: It's Geno or bust for the homestretch. That can't be too comforting for Rex Ryan, whose job could hinge on his rookie.

"Just bad, man," Smith said after his second four-turnover game of the season. "The way I can sum this game up for myself is awful. I know I can play better. I know this isn't who I am or who I want to be."

This was reminiscent of the Jets' Week 4 loss in Tennessee, in which Smith was rattled early, lost his composure and never recovered. He was positively skittish against blitz-minded Buffalo, throwing more passes to the Bills (three interceptions) than he did to any one of his own wide receivers. He was pulled early in the fourth quarter, when it was 34-7.

In skee ball, you get 10 points for a bad roll. Against the Bills, Smith rolled a 10.1 -- his passer rating. It was the lowest rating by a Jets starter since Mark Sanchez's 8.3 in 2009, his five-interception rookie debacle against the Bills.

Smith was every bit as bad in this game, serving up 17 points to the Bills with his turnovers. He completed only 8 of 23 passes for 103 yards on the same day fellow rookie EJ Manuel resembled Jim Kelly. Manuel produced a 121.9 rating, shredding a secondary that was supposed to be improved with the addition of safety Ed Reed.

Smith's may have been the worst quarterback performance of the season -- anywhere. His QBR was 0.7 (on a scale of 100), the lowest for a quarterback in 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I hate to use the word 'growing pains,' but that's exactly what it is with me," said Smith, whose turnover total ballooned 20, including 16 interceptions. "I know in this situation, with this team, we can't have that."

Even though they're allergic to winning streaks, the Jets (5-5) remain in the chase for the second wild-card spot in the AFC. But they're contention is spite of Smith, whose performance over past five games has been far south of mediocre -- only one touchdown pass and eight interceptions.

Geno Smith and Manny Lawson
Geno Smith lost a fumble, in addition to his three interceptions, raising his turnover total to 20.
Smith will start next week against the Baltimore Ravens, according to Ryan, who softened his evaluation of the rookie by saying he was victimized by poor pass protection.

"With our protection, you could've had Joe Namath back there and I don't think it would've mattered," Ryan said.

Actually, Namath probably would've played better -- and he's 70 years old.

Smith passed for a season-high 331 yards against the Bills in Week 3, but this was a different Buffalo defense. This time, the secondary was healthy and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine -- Ryan's former right-hand man -- went after Smith with a barrage of blitzes. Against five or more rushers, he threw two interceptions and was sacked four times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Safety Jairus Byrd, playing like a young Reed, made Smith look silly, intercepting him twice. He also was picked off by safety Da'Norris Searcy, who returned it 32 yards for a touchdown -- Smith's fourth pick-six of the season.

At least there wasn't a Behind-the-Butt Fumble.

Smith is a big problem, but he's not the Jets' only problem. They can't handle success. They became the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses through its first 10 games. That shows a lack of maturity.

This was the classic letdown. For two weeks, they were showered with praise, enjoying the glow of their win over the New Orleans Saints. The Jets acted as if they had arrived. Ryan fueled the perception last week, expressing his surprise that the Bills were favored. That, more than his pre-planned trip to Dave & Buster's, was a slight toward the Bills.

Naturally, Ryan will get ripped for the field trip. He canceled offensive and defensive meetings Saturday afternoon, hoping to shake up their routine after dropping three of their first four on the road. The Bills were aware of the Dave & Buster's respite, but they wouldn't admit it was a source of motivation. Good for them; it would've been high-schoolish for them to admit it was.

This game wasn't about a couple of hours at an arcade. This game was Geno & Busted. The Jets have a quarterback problem. They're getting no production out of the position, and they have to figure out a way to coach around Smith, who still has the support of teammates.

"My confidence level is high," guard Willie Colon said. "I'm going to ride with Geno until the end."

The Jets have no choice.