- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the New York Jets' quarterback position.
Rewind: Rookie Geno Smith wasn't terrible against the Pittsburgh Steelers -- at least not Tennessee terrible -- but he wasn't nearly as good as he needed to be. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 201 yards, but he threw two interceptions deep in scoring territory and failed to get his team into the end zone. He was frustrated by a defense that was determined not to give up big plays. Smith missed his one big chance, overthrowing Stephen Hill on what should have been a 77-yard touchdown.
Fast-forward: Smith gets another crack at the New England Patriots. This should be a good barometer of how much he has grown as a quarterback since Week 2. Facing the Patriots on a short week (a Thursday night game), he fell apart with three interceptions in the fourth quarter. In fact, the three picks came in a span of 11 plays. No team can beat the Patriots with that many mistakes. Smith won't see a lot of blitzes from the Patriots, but his patience will be tested, as it was by the Steelers. He can't lose his cool because you know Tom Brady won't.
The right stuff: This is a quirky stat, but Smith is a much more efficient passer when he throws to the right. His passer rating when he throws to the left sideline is 103.7, and his rating when he throws to the right side is 117.6, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His ratings in the other areas aren't even close.
Prediction: To avoid third-and-long situations, in which Bill Belichick is at his scheming best, Smith needs the support of a running game. The Patriots will be without nose tackle Vince Wilfork and linebacker Jerod Mayo, so the Jets should be able to make yards on the ground. If not, it'll be another long day for Smith.