For one night, at least, the spotlight belonged to Matt Simms.
And the sea of reporters that nearly engulfed the young quarterback at his locker stall Thursday night was further validation of a job well done.
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Simms may be raw, but with all of Jets Nation watching, the son of former Giants quarterback Phil made a strong case for the No. 3 quarterback job.
"I just know I went out there and played as hard as I could," said Simms, who completed 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards in a 27-20 win over the Eagles in the preseason finale at MetLife Stadium. "I laid it all on the line and we'll see where it takes me."
His performance could very well take him all the way to the regular season. Simms currently is vying for a backup job with the injured Greg McElroy and a spot on the 53-man roster. And with McElroy sidelined by a knee injury, the 24-year-old Simms -- a native of Franklin Lakes, N.J. -- took full advantage of his opportunity.
Even Geno Smith, who did not play, took note of Simms' performance. When a crowd of reporters descended upon him, he joked: "You guys should interview Matt. He's the star."
And for one night, Simms was.
He spent much of the first half running for his life behind a makeshift offensive line and was sacked seven times for a loss of 57 yards. But he managed to stay upright long enough to find open receivers.
He was 20-for-26 for 156 yards in the first half, including completions of 23 yards (Zach Rogers), 17 (Michael Campbell) and 13 (Ben Obomanu) to help set up a 45-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter that put the Jets up 10-2 with 4:10 left in the first quarter.
Simms struggled at times, however, even registering a first-quarter safety after being flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone. But he rebounded, much to the delight of his coach. "Man, it's good to see," Rex Ryan said of Simms' improvement. "Obviously, he's a smart kid, has a great pedigree and is a local product. It was really great to see him get the opportunity and take advantage of it."
The Jets' coach playfully noted "this is a poor night," considering Simms entered the game with a 137.5 passer rating and finished with a 91.6.
Blessed with a strong arm and innate moxie, Simms wasn't deterred when the Jets cut him after training camp last year. And when it came to his first professional start, he made sure to heed his father's advice.
"I talked to him earlier today," said Simms, who hit Campbell for a 41-yard strike and threw a 7-yard pass to tight end Chris Pantale to set up a 28-yard field goal by Nick Folk for a 13-5 lead. " . . . Just the same old dad speech: 'Do good, play hard and represent well.' "
The game was a big step for Simms, but it also was an important night for several bubble players. Running back Kahlil Bell -- who hopes to take advantage of an open roster spot with Mike Goodson set to serve a four-game suspension -- rushed 21 times for 80 yards and two TDs, including an 8-yard score out of the Wildcat. Wideout Ryan Spadola also had a strong showing, aside from his second-quarter fumble in Eagles territory. He had six catches for 47 yards. Campbell had five catches for 90 yards.
After an Eagles TD and two-point conversion that tied it at 13, Bell scored on a 2-yard run to give the Jets a 20-13 lead, and a 20-yard pick-6 by Antonio Allen made it 27-13 with 2:04 left.
Notes & quotes: Stony Brook product Michael Bamiro started at right tackle for the Eagles and struggled to keep backup OL Leger Douzable at bay.