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Wilson's Strong Outing the Silver Lining in Heartbreaking Defeat

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had his best game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, silver lining in another brutal loss against Tom Brady.

The Jets nearly started 2022 with a bang. 

Up 14 points in the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was a welcome surprise to a team that was a 14-point underdog before kickoff. Yet that was where the Jets found themselves, flying high in their last home game of the season.

That is, until it came crashing down in all too familiar fashion. The Jets botched a fourth-down opportunity to put the game to bed, and helplessly watched Tom Brady march 93 yards down the field, tossing a game-winning 33-yard touchdown to Cyril Grayson.

Lost in the fourth-down quarterback sneak, the latest Brady dagger at MetLife and the Antonio Brown charade that dominated the day, was the brightest light for the Jets, the silver lining that should make Sunday’s nightmare ending ever-so-palpable. 

Their rookie quarterback looked great.

Against the defending Super Bowl Champions, Zach Wilson looked like a veteran, going toe-to-toe with the greatest quarterback of all time, one who has been in the NFL for literally as long as Wilson has been alive. In fact, Sunday marked the largest age difference in NFL history between two starting quarterbacks (Wilson, 22 versus Brady, 44).

And yet, it was Wilson, not Brady, who had his team up nearly the entire time, who opened the day with two consecutive touchdown drives and who played interception-free football for his fourth straight game.

Of course, Brady finished with the superior day, eclipsing 400 yards and getting the best of New York for the umpteenth time, but the Jets can find solace in the play of Wilson, who continues to improve with each week.

READ: Zach Wilson Reveals What Tom Brady Told Him After Buccaneers Beat Jets

Right out of the gate, Wilson looked decisive. He knew where the ball needed to go and got it there quickly. When his first read wasn’t available, he didn’t panic. He just moved through his progressions. And when those reads weren’t open, he improvised until he couldn’t any longer, and threw the ball away. 

“The main goal today was just feeling space,” Wilson said. “These guys do a really good job of giving you a one-high shell and then all of a sudden turning it into a two-look, rolling, bringing the corner down. They obviously bring a lot of pressure. Different things like that. So for me it was, where can I feel space, and then just go through my reads and progressions and just get our playmakers the ball.”

On New York’s second possession, Wilson converted four consecutive third downs, rifling passes over the middle to Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios and Kenny Yeboah before finding Berrios in the flat for a touchdown. The throws to Smith and Yeboah in particular were difficult throws in tight windows, but Wilson put just enough oomph behind them to extend the drive.

His best drive, though, came in the third quarter. After moving the Jets down the field on a pair of successful screens, Wilson found Berrios and Keelan Cole on consecutive plays to get the Jets down to the Tampa Bay one-yard line, where Ty Johnson would punch it in. They were far and away his two most difficult throws of the day, threading the needle each time.

Wilson finished 19-of-33 for 234 yards and a touchdown. 

He did it without Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, Tevin Coleman, Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin. He lost Michael Carter too, who played just over one drive before suffering a concussion. He fought through the usual drops, pressures and time of possession deficiency. 

He made the layups with ease and made the tough throws with confidence. And most importantly, he continued to maneuver the offense down the field and put his team in a position to win the game.

It’s unclear what exactly transpired on the fourth-and-two that could have iced the game and given Wilson his biggest win of his career. Saleh chalked it up to a coaching miscommunication, as the ball was supposed to be handed to Berrios, which likely would have resulted in a first down. Instead, Wilson called his own number, trying and failing to sneak the ball two yards. 

That play may have sealed New York’s fate, but it shouldn’t take away from an otherwise strong performance from its rookie quarterback, who is starting to cook with gas as the season draws to a close.

He’ll get the chance to make one more statement next week, as the Jets head to Buffalo to face a Bills team with its sights set on the AFC East crown.


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