Zach Wilson’s return spoiled as Jets fall to Lions 20–17

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond returns a punt for a touchdown against the Jets.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond returns a punt for a touchdown against the Jets.
AP Photo/Bryan Woolston

The Jets lost another heart-breaker on Sunday, when the Lions scored a 51-yard touchdown in the finals minutes, and the Jets missed a last-second field goal to fall 20–17.

Sunday’s home loss spoils Zach Wilson’s return to the quarterback position, after spending three weeks on the bench, and brings New York to a 7–7 record — while dealing a significant blow to their hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. 

The game was evenly matched for most of the game, even as the Lions scored a punt-return touchdown on their second possession of the game, as the Gang Green defense proved once again they are among the best quads in the NFL — holding the red-hot Lions to just 20 points on the afternoon. 

That comes as the Lions have averaged 32.75 points in their previous four games, and is a feat they accomplished without Quinnen Williams, their best defensive player that missed the game with a calf injury. 

Yet, even as the defense stepped up, the team saw their 4-point lead evaporate when Jared Goff completed a touchdown pass to Brock Wright with just 1:49 left in the game and gave Detroit a 3-point lead that New York wouldn’t recover from. 

They nearly did, however, as Wilson led the team down the field and into field goal range, but kicker Greg Zuerlein missed from 58 yards as the clock struck zeros. 

The reemergence of Wilson under center threw a wrench into the Gang Green season, as it had appeared that the team would be moving on from him (at least until the year ended). But he got his chance to once more take snaps in a Jets uniform sooner than most had expected. 

He finished the game with 18 completions on 35 attempts for 317 yards and an interception. 

“I thought he played well,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “Like I said, there’s ebbs and flows of a game. There will always be things we can nitpick at, but moved the ball, created explosive plays.”

In addition to Wilson’s spotty play, and the yet-again porous performance by the special teams, the team’s running game fell flat. 

Bam Knight led the team in rushes with 13, but mustered just 23 yards. The team as a whole had just 50 yards on the ground. 

But the lasting story coming out of this game will surely be the lasting implications of the Jets’ quarterback situation. 

Coming into the game, Wilson (the second-year quarterback, who was the team’s second-overall pick in 2021) had boasted a 55.56% completion rate, while tossing 182.7 yards and 0.6 touchdowns per game over the course of seven contests. He had five interceptions over that time. 

Meanwhile, White, in just three games this season, has recorded a 62.02% completion rate, with 317.3 yards per game and one passing touchdown per contest. 

The locker room has seemed to be committed to White’s play, as he has garnered the respect from his teammates that Wilson had struggled to in his young career. 

Wilson simply didn’t have enough firepower to get the team over the hump on Sunday, and failed to do much to justify him keeping the starting job. 

“That’s not up to me,” he said after the game.

If White is healthy next week, it’s widely believed that he will retake the starting job once more.

For more coverage of the Jets, head to amNY.com.