EAST RUTHERFORD — Perhaps this was the quarterback the New York Jets were hoping to get when they took Zach Wilson second overall. After calls for his starting job intensified, Wilson delivered a career game on Sunday Night Football against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
It just wasn’t enough to win.
Wilson completed a career-high 28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns while outdueling the reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes in every metric except the scoreboard. While the team ended up losing 23-20 to the champs, Wilson’s strides as a passer were hard to miss. Throughout the night, Wilson made throws that left fans in awe and excited the coaching staff enough to warrant more trust in the young signal-caller.
“He’s been practicing outstanding. I’m really happy for him to show he belongs in this league. If he plays like this, we’re going to win a lot of football games,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said after the loss.
Despite the unprecedented plays that kept the Jets in the game, Wilson’s lone turnover was a killer turn of events for New York. Late in the fourth quarter and at midfield, Gang Green’s offense was driving for the potential go-ahead score. Unfortunately, Wilson fumbled the snap and the Chiefs recovered.
New York never got the ball back.
As a sign of further maturity, Wilson made it clear after the game that the loss solely rests on his shoulders, and that they would have gone down and won the ball if they received another chance.
“I lost us that game,” Wilson said afterward. The quarterback also reportedly spoke up in the locker room directly following the loss and took responsibility for it. The team around him responded with a clear understanding and appreciation for the maturity of the starting quarterback.
“He is locked in on what we’ve got going on right here. That’s how you can go out and play like (he did)…He let it fly. He was rolling and had the right head on his shoulders,” Garrett Wilson said of his quarterback.
The sky is the limit for the Jets’ offense if they continue to get the kind of play Wilson showed in Primetime. New York may have a tough schedule over the next few weeks, but a 1-3 start to the season can be managed with wins over the next couple of weeks against the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles.
Probably most important for the Jets on Sunday night was the team’s ability to show they can move the ball down the field every week. Before Sunday’s contest against Kansas City, New York did not record over 200 yards of offense in a game.
That mark easily broke Sunday night. Gang Green averaged over six yards a carry on 16 carries while deep throws were consistent throughout the contest. After weeks of having his position in the NFL called into question, it was an important step in the right direction for Wilson and the offense.
“It just shows his resistance, his maturity, the growth he’s had over the last year. He brushed it off and went out and balled out in the game. I’m proud of him, and we trust him. We all saw his ability and that’s why we’re all behind him and have his back,” Connor McGovern explained.
A big part of that success though has to also be granted to offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The Jets’ new play-caller utilized motion to great effect and was ahead of a defensive standout group that came into the contest ranked in the top 10 in most categories.
“I felt that Hackett did an unbelievable job mixing things up. I was seeing it well but I need to be better with the details,” Wilson said of his OC.
At 1-3, the Jets have a long hill to climb if they want to consider themselves contenders in the AFC playoffs. It’s not impossible to come back from a slow start like this, but the team must start racking up victories as soon as possible. If the offense (and more importantly the quarterback) play like they did on Sunday night though, they certainly can make up for their slow start to the year.