Just seconds after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought Rian Lindell had kicked the game-winning field goal, a late hit from Bucs linebacker Lavonte David on quarterback Geno Smith put the Jets within field goal range, setting up a 48-yard kick by Nick Folk to stun the Buccaneers 18-17 at MetLife Stadium.
Smith scrambled to the outside and David thought the rookie quarterback was in bounds when he pushed him, riling up the Jets’ sideline. The penalty, along with Smith’s 10-yard gain, brought the Jets from their own 45 yard line to the Tampa Bay 30.
As Folk’s kick sailed through the air, David appeared to be on the verge of tears.
“Its a tough one because earlier in the game, the quarterback [Smith] hurt us for a couple scrambles. So in Lavonte’s mind, I’m sure [he was thinking] ‘I’ve got to get him before he gets into field goal range,'” said head coach Greg Schiano in his post-game press conference.
“Now it was obviously a good job by [Smith] walking the tightrope, and then obviously getting hit. It was smart. It was a good play. Lavonte plays at a high speed, plays all out. Unfortunately it got him that time.”
While critical to the game’s outcome, David’s penalty was far from the only mistake made by the Buccaneers in a sloppy effort that was ravaged by miscues, technical malfunctions, and featured 13 penalties with nine in the first half alone.
The opening possession could not have gone any worse for quarterback Josh Freeman. After a 20-yard connection with Vincent Jackson, things unraveled quickly. At 13:05, the Bucs were forced to take a timeout when Freeman’s headset appeared to malfunction. He pointed to his helmet and looked over to the sideline, confused.
The crowd at MetLife stadium caught on and the noise escalated. On second-and-10, Freeman could not get the ball off quickly enough, resulting in a delay of game penalty. On second-and-15, as the clock winded down, the Bucs were slapped with another delay of game and Freeman had to jog to the sideline to get a new helmet.
On second-and-20, Freeman was sacked for a 10-yard loss, pinning the Bucs all the way back to their own 29-yard line. On third-and-30, right tackle Demar Dotson was flagged for a false start, forcing the Bucs to punt on third-and-35.
“The beginning of the game I didn’t think we handled very well with the noise. And for whatever reason, I don’t know if we were too amped up or what it was, but we didn’t efficiently operate,” said Schiano.
“We had a couple of delays, which [are just] inexcusable, some false starts. We had nine penalties in the first 19:00. We can go two weeks and have nine penalties. We’ve got to get that fixed.”
Schiano also acknowledged the need to correct the headset issue, which was a problem in New England as well. “We’ve got to get to the bottom of it. We were looking for answers at that point, why it wasn’t happening. We’ll figure it out and we’ll get it rectified.”
A facemask on Daniel Te’o-Nesheim meant the offense had to begin its second possession from the Tampa Bay 3 yard line.
With Doug Martin stuck in neutral and Freeman unable to find Vincent Jackson, Freeman fumbled the exchange from center Jeremy Zuttah, resulting in a safety, and putting the Jets up 2-0.
Freeman eventually got settled while the defense held, connecting with Vincent Jackson on 7 and 12-yard pass plays before throwing a laser to Mike Williams for a 17-yard touchdown that gave the Bucs a 7-2 lead.
The Jets responded with a 43-yard field goal from Nick Folk, inching within two points, thanks to a holding call on third-and-8 from the Bucs.
With 7:03 remaining in the first half, Mason Foster got a hand on Geno Smith and knocked the ball loose. It was recovered at the Jets’ 11-yard line buy Akeem Spence. Doug Martin ran it up the gut for a 5-yard touchdown.
Foster sacked Smith again for an 18-yard loss following an interception from Josh Freeman just before the 2:00 warning in the first half. But just when it appeared that drive was over on third-and-21, the Bucs defense again drew an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Mark Barron.
Geno Smith hooked up with former Bucs tight end Kellen Winslow on a 18-yard reception and again on a 7-yard touchdown, lessening the Bucs’ lead 14-12 at the half. Winslow caught 7 passes for 79 receiving yards.
The Buc defense started to put the heat on Smith in the second half, with Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Dekoda Watson sacking him for 6 and 12-yard losses respectively, while the offense struggled to move the football with Martin, who was limited to 65 rushing yards on 24 attempts.
A holding call on third-and-6 from Leonard Johnson in the fourth quarter set up a 30-yard field goal by Nick Folk, one of three for the Jets kicker. “We’ve been good with penalties. It’s not been an issue of ours, and I don’t anticipate that it is going to be an issue of ours, to tell you the truth,” said Schiano.
“[There were] too many third down defensive penalties that got guys off the field — that we would have been off the field — and then we went back on. One of them ended up in a touchdown and one of them ended up in a field goal. So that’s 10 points right there that maybe they would have scored them another way, but it wouldn’t have been in those drives.”
Vincent Jackson’s 37-yard catch-and-run on third-and-10 set up Bucs kicker Rian Lindell’s lone field foal for the day. Jackson has his 20th career 100-yard performance, finishing with 13 catches for 154 yards receiving.
Freeman finished the night with 15 of 31 completions for 210 passing yards, an interception and a touchdown. He was sacked three times, and appearing completely out-of-sync with the offense.
“It’s frustrating to everyone because we have good players,” said Schiano on the unit’s struggles. “We will find a rhythm with this offense. We certainly haven’t found it yet, but we will. There are guys out there that are playing too well not to.”
Smith finished his rookie debut 24 of 38 for 156 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Darrelle Revis, who returned to the field for the first time since his season-ending knee injury last year, had two of the Bucs’ five pass breakups.