Zach Wilson and the New York Jets won a football game!
It was a great sign for Wilson, whose career was off to a brutal start through his first three games. He had a 2-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio—including some really bad picks—with a completion rate just over 55% and a cumulative passer rating of 51.6 entering play Sunday. Remember that if a quarterback spiked the ball on every play, he’d finish with a passer rating of 39.6. So… yeah, Wilson wasn’t quite playing like the second overall pick that he was in this year’s draft, especially in his previous two games.
Against the Tennessee Titans, like New York’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, we saw bits of the bright future Wilson and the Jets could have. It wasn’t the prettiest start for the rookie on Sunday, as he extended his games with an interception streak to four on the Jets’ third possession, two and a half minutes into the second quarter. After that, it was much smoother sailing, as Wilson marched the Jets downfield for a 75-yard touchdown drive on their next possession. As the game went on, Wilson only got better, and he finished with an impressive line of 21-of-34 for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick, good for a 97.3 passer rating.
The fact Wilson got his first NFL win is a big deal in and of itself, even if it required some luck at the end. But the bigger takeaway from Sunday was that the Jets won because of their rookie quarterback, not in spite of him.
The early interception was a tough start, but it didn’t doom the Jets. Wilson made some truly electric deep throws down the stretch to keep New York in it by setting up scoring opportunities. The first such play was this throw to Keelan Cole on 3rd-and-6, a 54-yard bomb—the longest throw of Wilson’s young career—to get into field goal range from New York’s own 34.
A Matt Amendola field goal four plays later gave New York their first lead.
It didn’t take long to see another shining moment from Wilson, who recovered a fumbled snap before a deep throw to set up another New York score on the next possession.
Then he made the best throw of his career on the Jets’ first play one possession later to put New York ahead again in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t only the throw that was impressive there. The rookie quarterback saw the safety crash down to prevent a shorter pass over the middle, so he waved for Corey Davis to push his route further downfield before unleashing a beautiful pass between the two cornerbacks in coverage for the touchdown. Wilson’s mid-play read of the pass defense and ability to redirect receivers to turn a solid gain into a great scoring play is a look the Jets love to see out of the second overall pick.
The final and most important throw the rookie made came in overtime, with the Jets still on their own side of the field in a critical 3rd-and-short situation. Wilson stayed cool in the pocket and dropped in a perfectly placed sideline dime to Cole to convert and keep the drive going.
He followed that pass up with another clutch third-down throw to bring the Jets inside the Titans’ 10-yard line on the first overtime possession. They’d eventually settle for a go-ahead field goal with less than five minutes to go, but it turned out to be enough when Tennessee kicker Randy Bullock went wide left on a 49-yard attempt that would have restored the tie.
The defense deserves some credit, but Wilson’s bounce back from another tough start continued to keep the Jets in it and eventually put them in a position to win. After a good Week 1 then back-to-back bad starts, New York’s new franchise quarterback had exactly the game he needed to have to give himself and his organization renewed confidence and their first win of 2021. Wilson still has room for improvement, but he made plenty of good plays on Sunday that he can build on.
- Feb 07, 2023
- Feb 07, 2023