FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Geno Smith addressed the media crowd this week in typical fashion, accepting responsibility for his recent shortcomings while keeping one eye fixed on the immediate future.
Asked about the challenge of facing the high-powered Saints, the Jets rookie quarterback was matter of fact and pleasant as always. "It's a great opportunity for us again,'' Smith said.
For the 4-4 Jets, Sunday is about more than just getting another win. It's about exorcising the demons from last week's embarrassing 49-9 loss to the Bengals. It's about restoring faith that this team can be playoff-bound if it fights hard enough. It's about having the chance to savor victory during their Week 10 bye.
But to do that, the Jets know they will need a collective effort to defeat the Saints (6-1). And it starts with their offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg.
"We took some steps backwards. Now we've got to take some steps forward,'' Mornhinweg said Thursday. "It's just that simple. I've got to do a better job, period, putting the guys in a little bit better spots.''
Mornhinweg also shouldered the blame for the disappearance of Stephen Hill, the second-year receiver who has only 10 catches for 107 yards (and no touchdowns) since his breakout performance in Week 3 against Buffalo. "I have to do a better job there, get him the ball a little bit,'' Mornhinweg said.
The Jets' offense was woeful in the rout in Cincinnati. The key for them Sunday is the running game. With an efficient rushing attack, they can exploit the Saints' biggest weakness (New Orleans gives up 110.3 rushing yards a game and 4.8 a carry) and take pressure off Smith.
"We've got to get in a rhythm; we've got to start being more consistent,'' guard Willie Colon said. "We just have to do our job up front. We've got to take care of the little things. Right now, that's what's killing us. We're not being detailed in our work.''
The Jets' running game was virtually nonexistent last week, with backup quarterback Matt Simms leading the way with three carries for 35 yards after replacing Smith with the game far out of reach. But the Saints' run defense very well could be the Achilles' heel of Rob Ryan's stout defense come Sunday.
"Their specific rushing statistics is one of the very few statistics that aren't in the top 10,'' Mornhinweg said when asked if the Jets will use the "ground-and-pound" attack more this week.
Colon is convinced that the dud against the Bengals won't shake the confidence of Rex Ryan's young team, particularly his offense. "We laid an egg. Flat- out,'' Colon said. "I know we're way better than that. I know we're capable of playing a lot better. It was just one of those games where it was just ugly.
"All of us collectively didn't play our best ball. When you play against a good team like Cincinnati, who's on the rise, who's probably going to end up winning their division, that's going to happen.''
By halftime, the Jets trailed 28-6. This week, against this team, their offense has to be better, Mornhinweg said.
"We needed to generate something and we just didn't,'' he said. "If we generated anything at all, our defense would've certainly fed off of us just a little bit.''