EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson lived by the long ball in his return to the starting lineup, resulting in one of the most prolific passing days of his young career, but he lamented his mistakes after a 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Wilson said his third-quarter interception, which set up a Detroit field goal, was “a bad decision.” Speaking of his overall performance, he said, “I got to be better, man.”
That he showed accountability after the Jets’ third straight loss was a stark contrast to his postgame comments from his previous start, Nov. 20 against the New England Patriots. After throwing for only 77 yards in a 10-3 loss, he declined to take responsibility for the poor offensive showing — and he was benched a few days later.
So, Wilson showed progress in that respect. As for his performance on the field, it was uneven.
Replacing the injured Mike White (fractured ribs), who was ruled out Friday, Wilson completed 18 of 35 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns — the second-highest yardage total in his career. He averaged 14.5 air yards on his completions, the highest for any quarterback with 15-plus completions in a game since Russell Wilson in 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Zach Wilson completed passes of 50, 40, 33 and 33 yards. At halftime, he glanced at the stat sheet and saw “a crap ton of yards,” he said — eight completions for 185, to be exact. But things went awry in the third quarter, starting with the interception by cornerback Jerry Jacobs.
“I forced it; I shouldn’t have thrown it,” Wilson said of his interception, a first-down floater intended for wide receiver Elijah Moore down the sideline. The Lions capitalized on the short field for a field goal, taking a 13-10 lead.
After that, the 2021 second overall draft pick started missing open receivers, drawing boos from the restless home crowd. He missed a wide-open Garrett Wilson across the middle, and the rookie wide receiver responded with a show of frustration on the field. After the game, he and the quarterback hugged on the sideline.
“I thought he handled it really well,” Garrett Wilson said of his teammate’s return. “He showed a lot of perseverance, especially at the end of the game, making some of the throws he did. He gave us a chance to win the game. That’s all you can ask for. He gave us a great chance to win the game.”
For stretches, Zach Wilson’s “reset” — that’s what the Jets called his benching — looked like a rerun of past performances: Off-target passes and back-foot throws. He got the ball back with 1 minute, 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, down by three points, but he went 3-for-7 and took two sacks on the drive. The game ended with Greg Zuerlein’s field goal miss from 58 yards.
Afterwards, coach Robert Saleh declined to name a starter for Thursday night’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The decision might hinge on White’s medical report; he’s scheduled for additional scans of his ribs. Because of the short week, they will likely have to go with Wilson again.
“I thought he played well,” Saleh said of Wilson, who dropped to 5-3 as the starter. “There are ebbs and flows of the game. There are always going to be things we can nitpick at, but he moved the ball, created explosive plays.”
The Jets, who fell behind on Brock Wright’s 51-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play with 1:49 to play, had a chance to tie or win it. They had 75 yards to go for a touchdown with three timeouts, but Saleh made some questionable clock-management decisions.
Saleh didn’t call his first timeout until 19 seconds were remaining, letting precious seconds bleed off the clock. He called the second with one second left, leaving one unused timeout.
Afterwards, he second-guessed himself.
“I can probably look back at it and say we should have used one for sure,” he said. “But at the same time, when you have three timeouts, time is not an issue whether you use one there or not. But, yeah, in hindsight for me, I could’ve called a timeout to settle the guys down.”
Asked about the timeout usage, Garrett Wilson said, “We’ll watch the film tomorrow and be like, ‘Wow, we could’ve handled it better.'”
Zach Wilson declined to weigh in on the clock management. He also didn’t want to comment on his job security.
“I think that’s not up to me,” he said. “For me, I think it comes back to how can I watch this film, how can I improve, and can I keep trying to put our offense in the best situation to win, and I didn’t do that today.”