Jets come to Geno Smith's defense in brawl
To many fans of both teams, it was a late-season snoozer between two long-eliminated losers that were playing for nothing more than 2015 draft position.
But the Jets and Titans demonstrated Sunday that they still have some fight left in them -- literally.
With 5:37 remaining in the third quarter of a game the Jets would go on to win, 16-11, at LP Field, all heck broke loose in the form of a brawl that was more intense than one usually sees in the NFL.
It happened while officials were reviewing what initially was ruled an 81-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Eric Decker that later was changed to a 48-yard play because Decker stepped out of bounds at the 33-yard line.
One moment the Titans' Wesley Woodyard -- who later in the half was called for a game-turning taunting penalty -- was jawing with Smith. The next moment, Woodyard's teammate, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, was punching Smith in the face.
That did not sit well with the Jets, especially Smith's offensive linemen.
"They punched Geno in the facemask, and that ain't right," center Nick Mangold said.
Tackle Breno Giacomini went after Casey and eventually ended up on the ground.
"It got out of hand," he said. "It shouldn't have gotten where it got to. But we're going to protect our players at all costs. I think it was a dumb move on his part. He's a good player. He doesn't have to do that stuff."
The only player penalized was Casey, and the call moved the ball to the 18-yard line and set up a Jets touchdown. But most of the Jets who offered an opinion expressed surprise and disappointment that Casey was not ejected.
"I assume he's going to get quite the hefty letter," Mangold said, referring to the seeming inevitability of an NFL fine.
So what exactly did Smith say that upset Casey?
"Just trash talk, just football stuff," Smith said.
Said Casey: "What he said is between me and him. Just personal, between me and him."
Casey did apologize to his teammates for putting them in a "bad situation."
"I just have to control my emotions in that situation," he said. "You know, words don't hurt you. He didn't put his hands on me, and I shouldn't have put my hands on him."
At the time of the incident, the Jets trailed 8-3. After that, they outscored the Titans 13-3.
Coach Rex Ryan said he should have done a better job keeping players on the sideline as the fight unfolded, but like his players, he viewed the episode as a sign of the team's togetherness.
"We've always got each others' backs, on and off the field," Giacomini said.
Smith praised the officials for the job they did "getting guys back in their corner," then seemed to realize he had inadvertently used a boxing term and corrected himself to say "on their sidelines."
Mostly he was happy for the support.
"We don't want to get into fights or anything with other teams or other teammates," he said, "but it is good to see guys come to my defense."