EAST RUTHERFORD — Perhaps if the New York Jets let Zach Wilson “rip it” earlier this year, the team’s playoff hopes would not be where they are now.
Wilson recorded his best game as a professional quarterback with a 300-yard, two-touchdown day to help end the Jets’ five-game losing streak by a 30-6 final over the playoff-minded Houston Texans.
“I thought Zach played the best game of his career,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said after the win. “Timing, rhythm, he was out there having a good time. He made a lot of things happen that weren’t there. Defensively, against that quarterback, I thought we handled it upfront.”
After returning to the starting lineup for the first time in several weeks, the Garrett Wilson-Zach Wilson connection was out in full force throughout the contest. In total, the reigning offensive rookie of the year tallied nine catches for 108 yards while helping his quarterback settle down early in the contest for some easy completions.
That connection was in particular full force at the start of the second half.
Following a half that saw both the Texans and Jets combine for just 163 yards of total offense and no points, Wilson connected with New York’s top receiver three times on the opening drive of the third to set Gang Green’s offense up in an advantageous spot.
Randall Cobb would make sure the game’s first trip into the red zone would not be in vain. His 15-yard reception was his first of the season and gave the Jets a 7-0 that awoke the seemingly quiet and wet crowd at MetLife.
In his first start since being benched midway through a loss to Buffalo three weeks ago, Wilson looked as sharp as he ever has through the first three years of his NFL career. The former second-overall pick shrugged off some off-field controversy earlier in the week to throw 27-36 passing for 301 yards, and two touchdown throws. He helped orchestrate the Jets’ second scoring drive of the game immediately after the first when undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson took an end-around eight yards to the house.
The 14-0 lead late in the third quarter was the first time New York had recorded over 13 points in the last seven games – an eight-week window of previous offensive futility.
“We always go in with the expectation to do that,” Wilson explained. “Our defense has been unbelievable every week. I thought we did a great job of coming together. I thought everyone battled and played for each other.”
Arguably the biggest catalyst for the Jets’ fifth win of the season came on the defensive side. Against a playoff-contending team in the Texans, and the front-runner for rookie of the year in CJ Stroud, New York’s defense was simply dominant throughout the contest.
Houston managed just 63 yards well into the third quarter and struggled to do anything constructive as an offense as they were hit with a barrage of pass rushers. Things went from bad to worst for the South-contending Texans late in the fourth. Stroud left the game late in the final quarter with the score already decided with a concussion.
He did not return to the game.
Outside of the health concerns for Stroud, the day belonged to Wilson and the Jets offense – especially in the second half. After a quarterback fumble gave the Texans life and their first score of the game, the former second-overall pick on the Jets sideline drove the offense on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a three-yard strike to Breece Hall. A trio of Greg Zuerlein field goals in the final minutes would be more than enough for the Jets to coast to victory.
“He balled. Put it all out there, throwing dots in the rain…Zach went crazy today,” Garrett said of his quarterback.
The 30 points scored on offense were the most by the Jets this season and moved the team to 5-8 on the year and kept their slim playoff hopes alive. They take on the Miami Dolphins next week in South Beach on CBS.
- The 21 points were the most scored by the Jets since Week 5 of the NFL season against the Denver Broncos. It was the first 300-yard passing game for Wilson since his 318-yard effort against the Detroit Lions on December 18th of last year.
- A big reason for New York’s offensive success on Sunday came on third down. New York was 6-13 on the do-or-die down – easily the best mark of the season for the team.
- While the team certainly was happy to end their previous losing streak, the Jets did have to deal with some injuries to their offensive line again. Fourth-round rookie Carter Warren did not play due to a hip injury suffered in Friday’s practice. Max Mitchell also left the game with a shoulder injury and was replaced with Billy Turner. The one bit of good injury news seemed to be that Joe Tippmann left the game but returned without any concern later in the game.
- Houston already came into the game banged up at several key positions. They lost Nico Collins early in the game with a shoulder injury and he did not return. The organization was already without Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz going into the contest.