The rookie was 20-of-36 for 214 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and no interceptions. Smith also ran for one touchdown, his fifth rushing score of the season. Notably, the Jets have won every game in which Smith has a rushing touchdown.
“I was really impressed with him,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
When Smith was asked whether he was disappointed that he only had a week left to prove himself as a franchise quarterback, referencing the perceived deadline of one season, he clearly bristled.
“I don’t know by whose standards that deadline has been set by,” Smith said. “I’m not disappointed. I’ve got a couple weeks to go out there and prove myself as I’ve been doing all season long. Quite frankly, that’s all that matters. I’m not worried about what anyone else says about a deadline or who I’m supposed to be proving myself to. The only people I have to prove myself to are my teammates and my coaches. I understand that and that’s what keeps me level-headed.”
Smith might also want to prove himself to the fans. Unlike his teammate Santonio Holmes, Smith wasn’t booed during this game, in part because a game with no sacks or interceptions didn’t offer a lot of opportunities.
Smith also gave them reason to cheer. He ran the ball 10 times for 48 yards. But more than that, Smith was able to convert 9 of 12 third downs after coming into the game with a 54.5 completion percentage on third downs.
“At this point in the season when you’re not in the playoff hunt you want to see what you can build off of for next year,” wide receiver David Nelson said. “The way (Smith) played today is going to pay dividends for him this off-season its going to give him confidence, it’s going to give his offense confidence, moving forward to get ready for next year.”
Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. had a 16-yard catch in the first quarter and said he could see some maturity in the way Smith checked off each of his options on the play.
“When I caught my first ball I actually saw him going through his reads,” Winslow said. “Like when I was running I was like, ‘OK he’s on the corner right now,’ and then he shifted his feet, bam! He’s definitely getting better and it’s only going to help us.”