The cheers from Jets fans were deafening as they celebrated quarterback Mike White during his season debut.
White, the 27-year-old signal caller, took over as the team’s starter for Zach Wilson, who was benched after an embarrassing performance last week — and he made the most of his opportunity as he led Gang Green to a rain-soaked 31-10 win over the Bears.
Sunday’s victory brings the Jets to a 7–4 record, and keeps their playoff hopes alive.
Chicago, meanwhile, was operating without their starting signal caller Justin Fields, who was ailing from a left shoulder injury, and played backup Trevor Siemian in the starting role.
While the Jets defense played characteristically sound against Siemian and the Bears, the major story from Sunday’s game was the emergence of White — and the way his presence under center opened up the offense for Gang Green.
White finished the game with 315 yards on 22-28 passing (78.6%), with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He recorded a 149.3 quarterback rating.
“He made easy look easy,” said head coach Robert Saleh. “He’s really good at doing his job.”
“I thought today was a complete team win. Our defense did what they always do,” White said, being sure to credit the defense. “I feel good.”
Sunday marked just the fourth game that White has started in his NFL career since being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He came to the Jets on their practice squad in the 2019 offseason.
His stellar play began early in the contest, as he led the Jets on a nine-play drive that went 76 yards into the endzone when he found rookie Garrett Wilson for an 8-yard touchdown pass. White was 6–7 on passing attempts on that drive.
That marked the rookie wideout’s first touchdown catch since Week 2 — but it wouldn’t be his last of the game.
On the Jets fourth offensive drive of the game, White found Wilson once again on a pass that traveled 17 yards in the air. The rookie then broke out an ankle-breaking move on the Bears’ secondary, and took the ball another 37 yards into the endzone for his second touchdown of the game.
.@MikeWhiteQB to @GarrettWilson_V for a 54-yard TD!
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White would lead another scoring drive before halftime, when they went 34 yards to set up a stunning 57-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein — which tied the franchise record for their longest made field goal, despite the downpour.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime with a 17–10 lead, the Jets didn’t let up.
White soon found Elijah Moore (the disgruntled wide receiver who had previously asked for a trade due to his low usage with Zach Wilson under center) in the endzone on a 22-yard touchdown pass for his first score of the season.
Moore had a total of 84 yards in 6 games with Wilson under center. He had 64 yards in one game with White.
“You don’t weather the storm. You become the storm,” Moore said of his early-season struggles.
With three passing scores to begin the game, the running game finally stuck big when Ty Johnson, the under-utilized running back, found a hole on the left side of the Bears defense, and ran 33 yards to paydirt, putting the Jets up 31–10.
Ty Johnson with a 33-yard TD adds to the Jets' lead!
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— Jets Videos (@snyjets) November 27, 2022
The Jets would go on to miss a field goal later in the game, when Zuerlein was wide-right on a 53-yard attempt. That came after a botched snap on an earlier attempt, when holder Braden Mann dropped the rain-soaked ball, and cost the team three points.
Those special team’s mishaps couldn’t stop the Jets on Sunday, though.
Sunday’s performance from the Jets offense (and their 466 total yards) likely answers any questions about the starting quarterback role, at least for the next few weeks.
While head coach Robert Saleh had called Zach Wilson’s benching a “reset” and said he may play for the team again this season, White’s play almost certainly put to rest any chance that he’s simply a placeholder down the stretch for the Jets.
He displayed an ability to find receivers down the field while feeling defensive pressure, a carefulness with the ball, and good enough sense in the pocket to take just one sack.
Fans should expect White to start going forward as New York hunts for a playoff spot — and possibly look to take first place in the division, where they are down by a single game against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills.