Jets overcome offensive ineptitude, injuries for 3rd win in row

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Monday, October 30, 2023

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Cornerback Sauce Gardner was so convinced that the New York Jets had lost that he started removing the tape from his banged-up hand in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

And he wasn't the only one.

"Sitting on that sideline at the end of that game, feeling like we were going to lose, it was a pretty s---ty feeling," Jets tight end Tyler Conklin said later at his locker.

Only 24 seconds away from one of their worst defeats in years, the Jets staged an improbable rally to beat the New York Giants13-10 for their third straight win, tying the score on Greg Zuerlein's 35-yard field goal as regulation expired and winning it on Zuerlein's 33-yarder in overtime.

Just like that, the Jets went from potential laughingstock to local royalty after a historically bad offensive game Sunday at Metlife Stadium.

"Over the last 10 years or so, it hasn't been all peaches and cream around here, but to say you're king of New York for at least one more year is pretty cool," coach Robert Saleh said of owner Woody Johnson, who has won three straight in the New York-New York battle.

Things looked bleak for the Jets, who were inept on offense for 59-plus minutes. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, before the Giants' Graham Gano missed a 35-yard field goal, the Jets' win probability was down to 1.1%, according to Next Gen Stats.

Down three points, with no timeouts left, the Jets took over at their 25-yard line. Zach Wilson, misfiring most of the day in the rain, completed a pair of 29-yard passes, one toGarrett Wilson, the other to Allen Lazard. They clocked the ball with one second on the game clock; they botched a similar situation three weeks ago to theDenver Broncos.

After Zuerlein's field goal, and a defensive stop in overtime, the Jets marched 46 yards in 10 plays for the winner. They were helped by a 30-yard defensive pass interference penalty on Adoree' Jackson, sparking the Jets to a stunning win -- their first after a bye week in eight seasons.

"I thought it was over," said Gardner, who chided himself for losing faith in the waning moments.

This was a strange game. It certainly wasn't a well-played one, as the teams combined for more punts (24) than points (23). The Jets finished 2 for 15 on third down and committed nine penalties for 85 yards, including four personal fouls.

On the flip side, the Jets held the Giants to minus-9 net passing yards -- a franchise record for the Jets and a franchise low for the Giants, who played most of the game with third-string quarterback Tommy DeVito after Tyrod Taylor left in the second quarter with a rib injury. It was the fewest passing yards by any team since the 2000 Cleveland Browns.

Incredibly, the Jets still almost lost.

"I would just say, unbelievable grit and battle by the guys," Wilson said. "[There was] absolutely no waver in belief at all, including me. Didn't doubt at all. When I saw our defense got a stop, I thought, 'Twenty-four seconds, no problem.'"

The Jets had their own adversity, as they lost two centers to potentially serious injuries -- Connor McGovern (knee) and Wes Schweitzer (calf). Guard Xavier Newman, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, was pressed into the pivot. With no regular-season experience at center -- he played a little in the preseason for the Tennessee Titans -- his first snap to Wilson was a fumble that was recovered by the Giants.

The most basic play in football -- the center-quarterback exchange -- was no longer a gimme for the Jets. At one point, they were holding in-game auditions, with left guard Laken Tomlinson trying a few snaps between series.

Saleh said "there was panic on the sideline" until offensive line coach Keith Carter barked, "Shut the f--- up!" to everyone.

Newman settled down for the second half.

"It was flawless," Wilson said.

Still, there were tense moments. In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Newman posed a question to Wilson in the huddle.

"Right before the drive started, 'X' [Newman] was like, 'Hey, if we clock it, what's the cadence?'" Wilson recalled.

Wilson (17-for-36, 240 yards, one touchdown) showed poise in the clutch, completing 4 of 7 passes for 67 yards on the score-tying drive.

"Zach was incredible," Conklin said.

The Jets improved to 4-3 with Wilson, who replaced the injured Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. They came from behind in all four wins, with the offense struggling every week. This was another sloppy game for the offense, which scored its first first-quarter touchdown of the season on a check down to running back Breece Hall, who ran 50 yards for a score.

Saleh acknowledged the ugliness of the win but added: "They never ask how. They ask how many."

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