November 25, 2010 11:54 PM
You can argue that Brad Smith saved the Jets' 2009 season.
Yes, the Colts greased the skids a bit when Peyton Manning was pulled from the Week 16 game in Indianapolis...but that second-half-opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Smith really turned things the Jets' way.
There were more highlights that followed - all the way to the AFC Championship Game - but so much of last year's good fortune at the end of the year stemmed from Brad Smith's kickoff return for a touchdown.
Now, credit Brad Smith with saving Thanksgiving 2010.
It's hard to believe, if you only watched the second half of Thursday night's game, that the Jets were flat in the first half and trailed 7-3 at halftime.
Because just 36 seconds into the second half, Smith took an end-around 53 yards for a touchdown to put the Jets ahead. And then he helped nail the game down with an 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter - after losing a shoe halfway through the return.
Smith's second-half bursts made it easy to forget about a very up-and-down day for the Jets' special teams. Nick Folk missed another field goal. Steve Weatherford had another great game, but backed up and punting out of his end zone he got little protection and ended up kicking the ball off his own player. Numerous penalties were called against the Jets on kickoffs for blocking in the back.
The 26-10 final disguised the fact that the Jets couldn't get anything going on offense in the first half. Poor play-calling (again) - and the Jets' only other non-Brad Smith-created touchdown came after another positive special teams play put them in good field position. The defense was bend-but-don't-break in the first half, somehow holding the Bengals scoreless for much of the half despite looking like it was constantly on its heels. There seemed to be a whole lot more negative for the Jets in this game than positive.
But you can't ignore the fact that the Jets outscored the Bengals 23-3 in the second half. You can't ignore the fact that the defense really turned it on and looked much better in the second half. It wasn't the blowout we might have expected, but at 26-10 it turned out to be a big win. And you can't ignore the fact that the Jets are 9-2.
I fully expect the Jets to beat the Patriots in two Mondays because they haven't shown any reason for us to believe otherwise. They just keep winning.