Zach Wilson flashes big-play ability to get 1st win as New York Jets beat Tennessee Titans in OT


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In the euphoric moments after their first victory as the New York Jets‘ coach-quarterback tandem, Robert Saleh posed a question to rookie Zach Wilson.

“You having fun yet?” he asked.

The 27-24 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at MetLife Stadium was indeed fun, Wilson acknowledged later, adding, “It was an interesting fun, though — a roller-coaster game, for sure.”

That’s because of Wilson, who delivered spectacular, game-changing plays but also made a couple of mistakes that could’ve cost the Jets their first win.

Wilson passed for 297 yards and two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter, injecting life into an offense that managed only 20 points in the first three games. The Jets faced deficits of 9-0 and, early in the fourth quarter, 17-10. They were staring at an 0-4 start for the third straight year.

Then Wilson, drafted second overall, displayed the playmaking ability that made the Jets fall in love with him. He made three schoolyard-type plays that turned nothing into something big.

“I think he was awesome,” Saleh said.

Displaying elusiveness and arm strength, Wilson scrambled outside the pocket and threw a 54-yard completion to wide receiver Keelan Cole to set up a go-ahead field goal with 19 seconds left in the third quarter — the Jets’ first lead of the season. Wilson ran 26 yards to his right, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, and threw at full speed.

On the next possession, Wilson fumbled a snap, scooped it up and, on his back foot, fired a 29-yard completion to wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Moments later, he threw a 3-yard touchdown to Crowder to make it 17-17.

Then came the biggest play of the game, a 53-yard touchdown to wide receiver Corey Davis. On a naked bootleg to his right, with no one open underneath, Wilson noticed the Titans had no deep safety. He motioned to Davis to go deep.

He went deep, and Wilson found him in the end zone to give the Jets a 24-17 lead.

“That’s like backyard ball,” said Davis, who made four catches for 111 yards against his former team.

Recalling his thoughts as he watched the off-script play unfold, Saleh said, “No, no, no, no. Oh, my god.”

Wilson’s improvisational attempts got him into trouble in the first three games, as he threw seven interceptions and was sacked 15 times. Saleh said he wanted Wilson to play a “boring” style, making safe passes.

Saleh smiled when told that Wilson’s game was hardly boring.

“He was aggressive when he needed to be and he was boring when he needed to be, believe it or not,” Saleh said.

Despite outstanding production in the fourth quarter and overtime (146 passing yards and two touchdowns), Wilson failed to capitalize on chances that would’ve ended the game earlier. He missed an open Davis on a third-and-10 that would’ve iced the game with 2:23 left in the fourth quarter. In overtime, after hitting two third-down passes and leading the offense to the Titans’ 9-yard line, he short-armed a pass to open tight end Ryan Griffin. Then, on a third down from the 1, he made a bad decision.

With no one open, Wilson tried to run it in and he was swallowed up by tacklers. If he had thrown it away, the Jets would’ve gone for a game-winning touchdown on fourth down from the 1, Saleh said later. Wilson lost 3 yards, forcing them to settle for Matt Ammendola‘s 22-yard field goal. The Titans nearly matched that to force a tie, but Randy Bullock‘s 49-yard attempt was wide left.

“I had a couple of chances to end it and I have to take advantage of those opportunities,” Wilson said. “I’m excited, but at the same time, I’m beating myself up.”

His teammates lauded his resilience, how he rallied the team after a sluggish start that included an interception. The home fans were booing in the first half, as the Jets struggled to do anything.

“He’s a fighter, I can tell you that,” said linebacker C.J. Mosley, who had one of seven sacks.

The Jets, too, showed some toughness, battling back from adversity on both sides of the ball. They were led by their 22-year-old quarterback.

“You’ve got to understand you’re in this position for a reason and there’s going to be growing pains, but you’ve got to do what you’ve done your whole life,” said Wilson, explaining his flair for dramatic plays. “You’ve got to turn the noise off and make it like practice.”



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