After yet another comeback win for the Jets, one that leaves them one game behind the Patriots for second place in the AFC East, it's easy to forget the pervading theme of this up-and-down-and-up-and-down-and-up-and-down-and-up season: Geno Smith's inconsistent play remains a worrisome wild card.
The Jets defense, which has deservedly received a great deal of praise this season, is largely the same, win or lose. The unit has allowed 23.3 points per game in losses and 23 points per game in wins. That's about as consistent as you're going to get.
In fact, they might even be a better group during those losing efforts, considering the added pressure Smith's mistakes are putting on them.
Smith has seven interceptions in the Jets' three losses. He's also fumbled three times, losing two. Those nine turnovers directly resulted in 28 points, either via a fumble/interception return for a touchdown or when the opposing team scored on the ensuing possession.
He's done nothing offensively to mitigate that damage, either. In losing efforts, Smith has one passing touchdown and no rushing touchdowns. He's directly responsible for seven of the Jets' 29 points (24 percent) in losses. Yep, the offense is averaging just 9.6 points per game in those three games.
But in wins? A whole different Geno emerges.
He has four interceptions in the Jets' four wins and has fumbled three times, losing only one. Those five turnovers have also proved less costly, leading to just 13 points -- a touchdown and two field goals.
Whether via his arm or his legs, Smith's offense is vastly improved in victories. He has seven passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in Jets wins, and is directly responsible for 63 of the Jets' 105 points (60 percent).
But it's not as if he suddenly turns from Tom Brady into Josh Freeman when he's in a losing effort.
Smith is 73-for-120 in wins, completing 60.8 percent of his passes and averaging 13.9 yards per catch. He's 57-for-103 in losses, completing 55.3 percent of his passes and averaging 12.3 yards per catch. If those seem like big differences, they're really not. Consider that if he completed just five more passes in those three losses his completion rate would be over 60 percent there, too.
The pressure on Smith has been relatively similar as well. He's been sacked 13 times (losing 98 yards) in wins and 12 times (losing 92 yards) in losses, so it's not as if the offensive line suddenly crumbles when the Jets are down.
When coaches preach ball protection, particularly to rookies, this is the reason. When Smith hangs on to the football, the Jets win. When he doesn't, they lose.
It's a lesson rookies are consistently forced to learn as they migrate to the tougher environ of the NFL.
And the inconsistent Geno Smith is no different.