The headline was all-too-familiar for the New York Jets following Sunday’s 28-24 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory with Tom Brady putting together the heroics to relegate Gang Green further down the loser’s column.
With 2:17 to go and the Jets holding on to a 24-20 lead, first-year head coach Robert Saleh opted to go for it on a 4th-&-2 from the Tampa Bay 7-yard-line to clinch the game at that moment rather than kick a field goal and leave the door open for a Brady game-tying drive.
The call was for a reverse to Braxton Berrios — who had already scored twice that day — with an option for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to keep the ball himself for sneak up the middle based on the look of the defense.
Saleh admitted that miscommunication led to what happened next as Wilson was stuffed on his keeper attempt, leading to Brady and the Bucs driving 93 yards on nine plays for the game-winning touchdown.
“Zach executed the play as it’s designed,” Saleh said. “Unfortunately, if you look… Braxton probably has a first down and the game’s over. Poor job on our part for the lack of communication.”
Another opportunity for the old “that’s so Jets” contrivers to pop up and chastise the team. But the other 96% of that game provided further indication that the Jets have something brewing in Saleh and, more importantly, Wilson.
The rookie quarterback outdueled the greatest of all-time in Brady for 96% of Sunday’s affair.
He was poised, he played the smart, boring football that Saleh has been preaching all season. He held onto the football and, for the most part, made the right reads.
He completed 19-of-33 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown while accruing a quarterback rating of 89.7 — the second-highest mark of his career only behind his performance in a 27-24 upset of the Tennessee Titans in Week 4.
Those numbers aren’t going to jump off the page, but Wilson managed to have such a productive day despite being without his top three receivers, his starting center, his starting left guard, his top running back, and two tight ends.
This was the first inclination that Wilson can, in fact, raise the level of play of those around him — something that is more valuable than gold in the world of football, especially from the quarterback position.
At this trajectory, Wilson could do plenty of damage when Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Jamison Crowder are healthy. But the Jets can take it to another level by fully investing in Wilson at the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Jets will have two top-10 picks — currently Nos. 4 and 7 — providing a golden opportunity to build up the supporting cast around Wilson.
Bolstering the offensive line to protect the 22-year-old should be as much of a priority as fixing a defense that has allowed the most points in the NFL this season. But adding one of the elite wide receivers of the 2022 draft class — whether that be Arkansas playmaker Treylon Burks or Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, or Alabama’s Jameson Williams — is also an avenue to consider. And it makes quite a statement that the Jets are all-in on Wilson and all-in on putting big-time points on the board.