For a coach sitting squarely on the hot seat, Ryan was loose and excited after what might have been his home finale at MetLife Stadium.
"I told you this team's on the climb, it's on the rise," Ryan said. "I think it was pretty clear, at least to me, that that's what we saw today."
With Ryan's job status uncertain, the Jets (7-8) showed no signs of a team playing out the string. The players and coaches took a victory lap and high-fived fans after the game.
"We were picked to be the worst team in the NFL," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "It says a lot about this team's character and the way we rallied under Rex. I guarantee you everyone loves playing for Rex."
Smith had his first game with at least two TD passes since October, with no turnovers or sacks.
The rookie was 20 of 36 for 214 yards and also ran for 48 yards - including a 17-yard scoring scamper in the fourth quarter.
"A tremendous performance," Ryan said.
Ryan wouldn't address a published report that he told his players at the team meeting Saturday night that the "word on the street" is he's out after next Sunday's game at Miami.
None of the players would even touch the subject, saying they'd keep those types of discussions behind closed doors.
"What I do know, guys, is that I'm coaching this team and my job is to focus on the present, what's right now," Ryan said, adding that he doesn't know if he'll be back next season.
"Things just started to unravel today, the whole thing that's been happening over the last month," Campbell said. "Being so close and not finishing it, I think is kind of pressing on guys. We just want to win so bad."
With the game tied at 10, Nelson got his second touchdown catch of the game on the second play of the fourth quarter, a 5-yarder. Smith last threw at least two touchdown passes at Atlanta in Week 5 - on Oct. 7.
New York took control with a drive of over 6 minutes capped by Smith zipping up the middle for a 17-yard touchdown, his fifth rushing score, to make it 24-13 with 3:19 left. The Jets converted four third-down plays on the drive, including Smith's TD.
The quarterback appeared to embellish it, dropping to the ground. But, the late hit angered the Jets' sideline, including a fired-up Ryan, and a few players on both sides shoved each other a bit. It ended up being an unnecessary roughness penalty on Gipson that put the ball at the 14.
NOTES: Umpire Butch Hannah left and didn't return after suffering an injury to his face late in the first half. He appeared to make contact with Jets CB Antonio Cromartie's right shoulder pad as he was spotting the ball, and then stumbled into Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson before going down to the turf. ... Browns NT Phil Taylor has a concussion and DE John Hughes sprained a knee. ... Browns DBs coach Louie Cioffi injured a knee injury when he was rolled into on the sideline in the first quarter during a play.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press