Not that anyone was counting, but when Jeremy Kerley came down with the jump ball Geno Smith lofted toward the left corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Jets an early 10-point lead in their 37-27 victory over the Raiders Sunday at MetLife Stadium, it ended a seven-week drought without a TD pass.
To break it down further, the span between Smith touchdown passes covered 371 minutes, 53 seconds of playing time. Kerley caught Smith's previous touchdown pass in a Week 7 overtime win against New England.
Maybe one reason the drought lasted so long was that Kerley suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 9 and sat out four weeks, missing the bye week and the previous three straight losses.
"It felt good," said Kerley, who had four catches for 41 yards. "I felt good about the game plan, felt good about the weather, felt good about my arm. Everything just felt right. Catching that was icing on the cake."
The catch itself was something you don't script. "Man, it just felt like backyard football," Kerley said. "Geno threw it up, and I was actually coming down on the catch. I saw it, went up for it, knew the DBs were out of position . . . I knew he was going to come to me based on coverage. It seemed like it stayed up there forever."
Not only did Kerley return to the lineup, but so did wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. Oh, both played the previous week, but Holmes was on the field for only three plays while nursing a hamstring injury and Winslow's use mysteriously was limited.
Against Oakland, both made big plays early to get the offense untracked. Holmes was wide open on a crossing route and went 32 yards to the Raiders' 28 to set up the opening field goal. The drive that ended with Kerley's touchdown picked up steam with a screen to Winslow that he carried 30 yards to the Raiders' 28.
"We're playmakers, and that's our job to go make plays for him," Winslow said. "We just seemed in rhythm, maybe because we went no-huddle."
Perhaps one reason for the improved execution was a game plan that gave Smith an opportunity to find receivers in open space with short passes and a chance to run after the catch. "We definitely wanted to get completions right away, whether it be throwing screens or swing passes," Kerley said. "We just wanted to get him going, get this offense rolling."
Holmes suggested that Oakland's defense was partly to blame for the running room the receivers had. "Those guys didn't play as good a defense as we thought they would play," he said. "They played a lot of man-to-man, and when they did go to their zone coverages, they left a lot of holes open and we exploited them."
But certainly, having Kerley back at slot receiver seemed to open up the field for the offense and build Smith's confidence. "Kerley is like Wes Welker to me," Winslow said. "He's definitely a playmaker."