The Jets are coming off a terrific win in Week 12, when they topped the Chicago Bears 31–10 at MetLife Stadium behind quarterback Mike White’s terrific play.
White took over the starting job under center for Zach Wilson, who was benched after a horrific display last week against the New England Patriots, when the offense garnered just 3 total points, and the team had more punts than completed passes.
Now, after the win, the Jets move to a 7–4 record, and their playoff hopes are still alive.
Now, we’ll look at which Gang Green players performed well, and who faltered with another edition of Studs and Duds.
Like each week, this column will only look at the performance in the most recent game, identifying who stepped up and who struggled — and what fans can expect from the New York roster in the weeks to come.
There’s not many criticisms of the Jets roster that you can find with Sunday’s win, but let’s get those out of the way first.
There is a major caveat to any criticism of the Jets special teams performance: kicker Greg Zuerlein made a 57-yard field goal, which tied the franchise record for the longest made kick, and he did so while it was pouring rain.
Perhaps that should salvage all other criticism of the special teams unit, but it’s worth noting the flaws they saw beyond that one play.
Keep in mind, this is the same special teams lineup that gave up a game-losing punt return as time expired to the Patriots last week.
On Sunday, Zuerlein missed his only other attempt from 53 yards in the fourth quarter, wide right. Some may consider that excusable due to the distance and the yardage.
What is not excusable, though, is placeholder Braden Mann fumbling the snap on a different field goal attempt in the second quarter, while the Jets were down 10–7. The potential game-tying score was botched when Mann lost control of the ball, before curiously trying to push the ball forward, and ultimately turning the ball over to the Bears.
Aside from kicking, the Jets only returned one kickoff, which only went 18 yards.
In all, aside from Zuerlein’s spectacular 57-yarder, the special teams remained a weakness for the Jets.
Now that we’ve nitpicked all we can with the Jets’ performance, let’s get to the good stuff.
The Jets are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL. Their defense is spectacular; their receiving core is deep; their running game is solid. The only missing piece was their quarterback.
Wilson had been holding the team back.
Mike White did not hold the team back.
White finished the game with 315 yards on 22 completions in 28 attempts, and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception, and took only one sack.
He got the ball out quickly, and showed both a willingness and an ability to toss the ball down the field in ways Wilson couldn’t or wouldn’t.
The former fifth-round draft pick was making the fourth start of his NFL career, but looked like a veteran. He will almost certainly hold on to the starting job down the stretch-run of the season, and judging by his performance on Sunday, the Jets are in good hands.
The receiving core
A whopping 10 different Jets players caught passes on Sunday. Beyond that, some big-names that had fallen off the radar this year made a big emergence.
Elijah Moore, who had asked for a trade due to his low usage with Zach Wilson playing quarterback, caught a 22-yard touchdown pass, marking his first score of the season. He finished the game with 64 yards — despite having just 84 yards during six games while playing with Wilson.
Meanwhile, Garrett Wilson, the rookie who leads the team in receiving yards, caught two touchdowns — doubling his scores on the year, and marking the first time that he found paydirt since Week 2, when Joe Flacco was under center.
Tyler Conklin, Zonovan Knight and C.J. Uzomah also caught multiple passes, and showed a spark they’ve been missing this year.
It’s hard to pick just a single defender for individual praise, as the Jets’ defensive unit continued to play like one of the best, and most cohesive, units in the NFL.
Granted, the game didn’t start out great for the defense, as they allowed a nine-play, 71-yard drive opening drive that resulted in a field goal, and then another nine-play, 71-yard drive that saw the Bears find the endzone.
But after those first two drives that put 10 points on the scoreboard for the Bears, the Gang Green defensive unit shut them down. They would not score a single point for the rest of the game, on their final eight drives.
C.J. Mosley continued to dominate the middle of the field, and ended the game with 10 tackles, along with a quarterback hit and a pass deflection — and he also caught a game-sealing interception.
Quincy Williams, the heart of the team’s defense, was a terrifying presence against Trevor Siemian on the defensive line.
Sauce Gardner continued his stellar rookie campaign and shut down the team’s deep ball.
In all, the defense showed why they are among the league’s elite defensive cores.