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Zach Wilson steps up, Jets defeat Jaguars

Braxton Berrios Jets
Dec 26, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) returns a kickoff for a touchdown during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Call it a Christmas miracle. 

The Jets held off the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 26-21 win on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, in a game where 20 New York regulars, including head coach Robert Saleh, were out because of COVID.

While the Jets didn’t improve their draft position, Sunday was a massive step forward for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who threw for 102 yards and ran for an additional 91 in the win. 

Sunday’s game in East Rutherford turned into the better of the two football games involving a New York team. Despite a matchup of two franchises that have long been knocked out of the playoff picture, the Jets and Jaguars turned into an entertaining affair that went down to the wire.

With the Jets holding onto a five-point lead in the closing seconds of the game, Jacksonville had found themselves inside New York territory. After Trever Lawrence spiked the ball to stop the clock with 13 seconds left, the 2021 first overall selection threw an incomplete pass to Marvin Jones to turn the ball over on downs and secure the win for New York.

While Jacksonville found itself on the board first early in the opening quarter, it was the 10 play, 91-yard drive by the Jets that served as the highlight moment in the first. It was culminated by a 52-yard rushing touchdown by Wilson to put the Jets ahead 6-3. 

The rushing TD was the longest ever completed by a Jets quarterback in franchise history and surpassed Sam Darnold’s 46-yarder last year against Denver. 

The signature play for Wilson occurred after he managed to break free of what looked like a sure sack in the backfield. Wilson then sprung free along the sideline before cutting past a defender and then dove into the endzone.

The play was part of a big afternoon for Wilson, who was selected second overall by the Jets in last year’s NFL draft. Sunday’s showdown with the Jaguars had been billed as the battle of first-round draft picks. Wilson got the better of his 2021 fellow draftee, throwing 14 of 22 which included a touchdown pass to Connor McDermott to give the Jets a 23-15 lead. 

The Jets’ rookie QB wasn’t the only one who showed off his footspeed in New York’s win. After Jacksonville had retaken the lead in the second quarter with a fumble recovery touchdown in the second quarter, Braxton Berrios ran endzone to endzone on the ensuing kickoff for a 102-yard kickoff return touchdown to give the Jets a 13-9 lead after the completed extra point. 

Like the rest of society, COVID played a factor in Sunday’s game. Jets tight end coach Ron Middleton served as the acting head coach after Saleh was sidelined because of COVID-19.

And just hours before kickoff Quinnen Williams tested positive for COVID and was unavailable to play. New York played without five of its defensive starters this week. 

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