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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Geno Smith provides some reason for hope

Jets quarterback Geno Smith looks on before a

Jets quarterback Geno Smith looks on before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 16, 2014 in Foxboro, Mass. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jared Wickerham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Geno Smith takes no consolation from whatever positive things he did in what turned out to be his best individual performance of the season. Sorry, all that matters is the final score.

Patriots 27, Jets 25. It's the only thing that matters.

Forget the fact that he went toe-to-toe with future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady in the Patriots' building. Never mind the fact that Smith finally went an entire game without a turnover for the first time this season. Ignore his gutsy drive near the end of regulation, when he got the Jets to within a two-point conversion of tying the score and possibly sending the game into overtime.

"We lost," Smith said. "It's a team game. Tom and I weren't out there by ourselves. It was all of us out there, and they beat us. Hats off to the Patriots. We had an opportunity, especially at the end, and we fell short. Fell two points short."

Smith has had a tumultuous season, on and off the field, so simply playing better after all that has gone on wasn't good enough for the second-year quarterback. Six straight losses, and that's all that matters. Even on a night when Smith competed as well as he has since late last season, when he finished with a flourish to give the Jets the confidence that he could build on those successes this year.

That vision, of course, proved futile for the first six weeks, as Smith struggled to complete passes and maintain his composure in the cauldron that is the New York market. He cursed out a fan after a loss to the Lions. He missed a team meeting the day before losing to the Chargers. There was a pick-6 against Denver to cut short a comeback attempt. And then clumsy remarks about how the media have "misunderstood,'' "misprinted'' and "miscommunicated'' his words in recent weeks.

Thursday night, there was just football. Just a good, solid game of football in which Smith did nearly enough to beat the first-place Patriots on the road. He had his cleanest statistical game of the season, going 20-for-34 for 226 yards and one touchdown.

He was helped by a running game that churned out 218 rushing yards against a Patriots defense weakened by the season-ending injury to middle linebacker Jerod Mayo. But part of that was a credit to Smith, too.

"I thought Geno had his best game tonight," wide receiver David Nelson said. "A lot of the run plays were [Smith's] calls. He was making great reads and putting the ball in a great spot. That's encouraging for us. Hopefully we can build off of that and take what we did tonight and grow off of that for the next opponent."

There was plenty of heart from Smith, too. He was leveled at the knees late in the fourth quarter, wincing in pain after defensive tackle Chris Jones hit him just as he threw, but he returned to the huddle after being sidelined for only one play.

The Patriots scored a touchdown on their next possession to make it 27-19, but Smith put together a 12-play, 86-yard drive and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland with 2:31 left.

The Jets needed a two-point conversion to tie it, and Jace Amaro found room near the back of the end zone on a fade route. But Smith didn't put enough air under the ball, and the comeback ended there. The Patriots sealed the win by blocking Nick Folk's 58-yard field-goal attempt as time ran out.

"I have to give [Amaro] a better ball ," Smith said. "He ran a great route."

It's one of several plays that will bother Smith, even though he made his share of positive ones. He'll look back at the inability to score any first-half touchdowns, as the Jets settled for four field goals. And he'll look at other lost opportunities, such as the 15-yard sack he took in the fourth quarter. He'll take no consolation from the plays he did make, the ones that were enough to keep the Jets within striking distance of their longtime nemesis. But he won't give up.

"I know there's no quit in us," he said. "We're not going to sit here and sulk about losing games, because that's going to make things worse. It's extremely frustrating, because I know the dedication in that locker room. We have the guys. We have what we need to win."

All they need to do now is actually win -- the only thing that matters.

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