By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
Remember this guy?
The Buffalo Bills won’t forget him any time soon.
And if the Jets are lucky, neither will Geno Smith.
For the first time in a long time, the Jets appear to at least be capable of scoring points in a hurry, a quick-strike offense that stretches the field vertically, allows for the running game to operate without having to face an overloaded box and permits underneath receivers to find their openings.
Having Santonio Holmes as a true deep threat can help the Jets in ways they probably couldn’t have imagined coming into a season with a rookie quarterback and, apparently, very little else at the skill positions.
But yet, there was Holmes in the fourth quarter on Sunday, racing down the right sideline with the eventual game-winning, 69-yard scoring strike from Smith in the Jets’ ugly 27-20 victory over their division rivals from western New York. Smith’s throw, an outside shoulder missile, couldn’t have been put in a better place, And Holmes’ hands, always his strongest suit, didn’t let anyone down.
Perhaps more importantly, Holmes’ feet, specifically his left one, now appear to be in sync with the rest of his body. The 29-year-old former Super Bowl MVP looks fully recovered from the debilitating Lisfranc fracture that he suffered back on Sept. 30, 2012.
And it couldn’t come at a better time for the 2-1 Jets, who have already exceeded many expectations and appear to have no intentions of being the doormat so many figured they’d be. And while it’s true they will likely continue to have their issues due to their youth or lack of experience, the fact remains that this team could easily be 3-0. With each passing day, the 13-10 loss up in Foxboro on Sept. 12, a game that the Jets outplayed the Patriots for much of, looks more and more like a major missed opportunity.
Holmes began to show signs of life during that loss, catching three passes for 51 yards. But even with the positivity from that night, I don’t think anyone was fully prepared for the five catches, 154 yards and TD he put up on Sunday against Buffalo.
He ran routes with the crispness of his finest seasons. The concentration was there as he made catches on full-out dives and leaps that only a player of his caliber is capable of. Holmes has always been a smart football player, even in the face of giving off an air of selfishness. In my opinion, despite his many character flaws, Holmes has been grossly misunderstood. He remains a player who is really all about winning, but just doesn’t fit in that perfect box.
You saw the best of Holmes on Sunday. You saw a player with plenty left in the tank. You saw a veteran let his play on the field set the tone for everyone else.
For years Holmes played with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, but racked up just one benchmark season, putting together a 79-catch, 1,248-yard effort in 2009. But it’s important to note that the Steelers were largely a smash-mouth team during their dominance over the first decade of the new century — not the pass-happy, no-run team they are now. So it was somewhat easy to understand Holmes’ lack of big numbers.
His Jets career figured to be more about quality than quantity as well, and has largely been defined by clutch performances. For it not for the fact that he has played in just 35 of 51 regular-season games, Holmes’ overall numbers might be better here as well.
But Sunday’s winning TD catch is more representative of what Holmes has always been about. And now that he’s healthy there’s no telling how many of his teammates will benefit. There’s no telling how much offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will benefit.
If the Jets are to continue to be more than what most everyone predicted coming into this season, they are going to have to maintain some semblance of a balanced offense, something Mornhinweg has done despite his infatuation with the pass. The Jets ran the ball 41 times for 182 yards and threw just 29 passes on Sunday.
Running back Bilal Powell played above himself, and made up for the fact that Chris Ivory went down with yet another nagging injury, the type of ailment that has thus far defined his short career.
The Jets’ offensive line, despite the fact that fan pincushion Vladimir Ducasse was flagged four times on Sunday, has by and large won the battles in the trenches. They paved the way to a 4.4-yard-per-carry clip and did not allow Smith to get sacked once.
Smith finished 16-of-29 for 331 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and added a score on the ground. He’s thrown six interceptions so far in three games, but Smith has also put up 801 yards, something that likely would have taken Mark Sanchez four or five games to do. Smith made a ton of smart decisions on Sunday, primarily knowing when to throw the ball away. The turnovers will remain a byproduct of a young, aggressive player developing within the confines of a complex NFL offense.
But as long as Smith gets the Jets into the end zone on a consistent basis, the turnovers will be a secondary matter.
The TD to Holmes and the earlier 51-yard scoring strike to Stephen Hill were both signs of something that the public might not be ready to accept — the Jets having a somewhat explosive offense. Think about it — they have put up more total yards than every team they have played so far. Add that type of production — even with the mistakes this quarterback is bound to make — to Rex Ryan’s defense, and you will likely get the Jets, at the very least, competitive in every game they play.
I just found it refreshing to see the Jets move the ball with such ease, to score points so quickly. For the first time in a long time they didn’t have to kick, bite and scratch just to accomplish what other teams do in their sleep and often take for granted.
With Santonio looking like the Holmes of old instead of an old Holmes, the Jets’ offense should be even more productive. Holmes adds a measure of comfort to the proceedings, as does Jeremy Kerley, who only caught two passes on Sunday, but both went for first downs. Throw in Hill, who overcame a brutal night against New England with three catches for 108 yards and a TD against Buffalo, and suddenly the Jets’ receiving corps doesn’t look anywhere near as God-awful as it did two weeks ago.
A few years ago, Jets fans fell in love with the “Flight Boys.” Holmes looks like he’s finally ready to put the band back together again.
The Jets just have to hope that Sunday’s performance wasn’t for one night only.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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