With the game on the line for the New York Jets, the rookie quarterback insisted to teammates they could still win. He was right.
Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2 seconds remaining after Lavonte David's personal foul on Smith following a big run gave him the chance. The Jets pulled out an improbable 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the season opener Sunday.
"I just went out there," Smith said, "and told those guys it's never over."
Trailing 17-15, Smith scrambled for 10 yards and was shoved while he was out of bounds by David. The 15-yard penalty put the ball at the Buccaneers 30 and Folk won it.
"Man, oh man," coach Rex Ryan said. "We talk about a resilient group, and we certainly have it. We fought all the way to the end. One team, one fight, well, there it is.
"Holy cow. Man, I mean, we'll take it. There's no question."
The Jets jumped up and down on the field and on the sideline in exuberant celebration moments after things appeared dim for them. Rian Lindell had kicked a 37-yard field goal with 34 seconds left.
"If there's time on the clock, I expect us to go out there and execute," Smith said. "And that's what we did today."
From the Jets 20, Smith found Kellen Winslow deep down the middle for a 25-yard gain. Then, with the seconds ticking away, the Bucs got pressure on Smith, who rolled right and took off down the sideline. He ran out of bounds — and David inexplicably shoved Smith.
"I don't know what to say," David said. "They called a flag. I guess I hit him out of bounds. Everybody told to me to keep my head up. All the guys in here were very supportive."
Added Bucs coach Greg Schiano: "It was a good job by (Smith), walking the tightrope and getting hit. It's smart, a good play. Lavonte plays at a high speed and plays all out. Unfortunately, that got him that time."
It put the ball on the Bucs 30.
"You just kick it like an extra point," Folk said he was thinking. "Make it look like every other kick."
Smith, starting with Mark Sanchez out with a shoulder injury, had a fumble that led to a score and an interception, but was mostly solid. He went 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown to Winslow. Smith also led New York with 47 yards rushing.
"I love playing with a team like this because you don't have to go out there and try to be Superman," Smith said. "You just go out there and just play football, execute and be smart with the ball."
Winslow had seven catches for 79 yards in his Jets debut. Santonio Holmes had one catch for 13 yards in his return from a foot injury that kept him sidelined for nearly a year.
With the Jets up 15-14, New York's defence couldn't stop Tampa Bay from driving for the go-ahead score. A 37-yard catch by Vincent Jackson on third-and-10 — safety Dawan Landry whiffed on a tackle attempt — led to Lindell's field goal.
The Jets also ruined the return of Darrelle Revis, their former star cornerback who had one tackle and two passes defenced in his first game since suffering a season-ending knee injury at Miami last September.
"I felt good, getting back out there and doing what I love to do," Revis said. "I was more excited being out there with my teammates. They've been anxious. I've been anxious. It was a great feeling."
Josh Freeman was 15 of 31 for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jackson had seven catches for 154 yards, and Doug Martin ran for 65 yards and a score on 24 carries.
Folk kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 15-14 lead with 5:05 left, capping a 14-play drive that was kept alive by a defensive holding call on Leonard Johnson.
Smith made his first really glaring mistake when he was hit by Mason Foster and fumbled near the goal line in the second quarter. The ball was recovered by Akeem Spence at the Jets 5, and Martin ran up the middle one play later to give Tampa Bay a 14-5 lead.
On the Jets' next possession, Smith threw his first NFL interception when he overthrew Chris Ivory and right to David.
The Jets went up 2-0 midway through the opening quarter when Freeman couldn't handle the snap at the 8. The football squirted into the end zone, and Freeman went chasing after it. Seeing Antwan Barnes about to fall on it for a touchdown, Freeman kicked it out of the end zone for a safety.
NOTES: Tampa Bay was called for five penalties in the first quarter, including two in a row for trying to call timeout. The Buccaneers finished with 13 penalties, including David's game-changing late hit. ... Foster had two of the Bucs' five sacks. ... The NFL announced before the game that Grammy-winner Bruno Mars will perform at halftime of the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org