“You having fun yet?”
These four words came from the mouth of Jets head coach Robert Saleh, having just received his first Gatorade shower in his head coaching tenure. The question was directed at rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, who definitely took his lumps the first three weeks of the season, but helped rally the team to a three point overtime victory against a solid Tennessee Titans team. It’s safe to assume Wilson, and the entire Jets team, were having fun.
And why shouldn’t he, after a brutal beginning to his professional career culminating in this season-defining win?
Wilson had a tough outing against the Patriots in Week 2 that saw the rookie throw four interceptions, while fellow first-year thrower Mac Jones was at least formidable. In Week 3, the team succumbed to an embarrassing shutout against a weak Denver Broncos squad. After three straight defeats, it looked as though this team would be as bad as last year’s, a unit that lost 13 straight to open up the season, with only three of those being one possession losses. The Jets hadn’t taken a lead in any game all season. Since 2016, the organization has had the worst home record in all of football. Mix that with a playoff team coming into town? Bad news.
Thankfully, the team was able to flip the script in this one, with a number of guys coming through with breakout performances. The defense as a whole was absolutely stellar, containing Ryan Tannehill and the Titans for most of the game. Their bend-but-don’t-break style contributed to a few key drives panning out to just field goals in the first half. Their front four killed it, sacking Tannehill seven times, the most by a Jets team since 2017. The biggest tragedy was that Saleh only had two game balls to give out.
Cornerback Bryce Hall might’ve been the defensive MVP of the game, accumulating half a sack while shutting down a big man-to-man play in the end zone, as well as a deep ball that Tannehill placed right on the money, sure to shift the game’s momentum if caught.
Can we also talk about the Williams brothers for a second? Superstar Quinnen and his brother Quincy had a historic day Sunday, becoming the first pair of brothers to record a pair of sacks in the same game for the same team since sacks first became a stat. They were absolute forces on the line, providing plenty of pressure all day.
Linebacker CJ Mosley got his first win as an active Jet this week, due to his injuries in 2019 and opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. He didn’t fail to disappoint, recording a sack, a quarterback hit and 13 tackles. This marked his third consecutive game with at least 10 tackles; the first time Mosley has done this in his All-Pro career.
Wide receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole played like absolute studs, making some huge catches down the stretch, including each receiving a deep downfield ball from Wilson. Since Davis was signed to be the team’s WR1, it’s great to see him filling that role; hopefully he can do it on a weekly basis. Cole was really a depth addition, as he is one of five solid options behind Davis. He has been an underrated receiver for his whole career, and has been proving that as of late.
Lastly, Wilson had the best game of his short career on Sunday. Despite an average first half, he turned the team around when they needed it, providing some crucial drives.
Wilson’s best throws came when he changed plans mid-play, connecting with Cole on the run for a fifty-plus yard bomb that set up a field goal to take the lead. Later, he literally directed Davis to change his route, connecting on another over fifty yard play, this one for a touchdown. Not only were these big momentum shifters, but ball placement was near-perfect. Flashes like this don’t mean he’s a star by any means yet, but definitely prove the haters wrong who claimed he was a bust after Week 2.
Look, I know I just rattled off a bunch of stats showing how good the Jets were this week, but do you know how often Jets Nation gets the opportunity to do that?
The fanbase believes in the organization since moving on from Adam Gase, and it was tough to see the team struggle so much while pushing this narrative that the rain clouds had finally gone away. While the clouds are still overhead, precipitation has stopped, at least for a moment.
Wilson was fantastic in the second half, showing flashes of the franchise quarterback the team drafted him to be. Saleh is showing that this team is not like the ones of years’ past, along with his ability to lead a team. This is a guy players want to fight for and who can make solid in-game decisions. That’s exactly what you want.
GM Joe Douglas is finally realizing his vision, too. Despite a not-so-great first draft class, he’s been able to adjust and create a formidable roster. Look at the impact players from this game. Quincy Williams was a waiver pickup just over a month ago. Hall was a fifth round pick in 2020. Kicker Matt Ammendola, who has filled a massive void left when the organization didn’t pay Pro Bowler Jason Myers back in early 2019, was a waiver pickup this spring.
Year by year and game by game this team is getting better. While the Super Bowl is clearly not in the sights of this year’s squad, further development of Zach Wilson and the rest of the young guys could lead to a playoff-hopeful team next year or in 2023. It’s going to be a slow grind, but there is plenty to be happy about this week in the Meadowlands.