The Jets were unable to build last week’s victory over Houston into a winning streak today. They fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-18 in the Meadowlands. The Jets are now 0-12 all-time against Philadelphia in regular season games and are 3-9 in the 2021 season.
We can begin by talking about the quarterback play. I view this game as something of a Zach Wilson Rorschach test. There was enough good and enough bad to build whatever narrative you would like.
Wilson got off to a very hot start in the game, leading the Jets to touchdowns on each of their first three drives. He had two touchdown passes and one run in this stretch. It was some of the finest football he played all season long. After that the Jets went scoreless.
How then can we assess Wilson’s performance? I think by any objective measure we saw tangible progress. For much of Zach’s rookie season, he has appeared to be in over his head. That was not the case at all in this game. He was completely in control. He also was much more willing to take easy completions on his first read and not force the big play. He evaded pressure when he needed to, using his mobility as a last resort and not a first, and gave his receivers a chance to make big plays they were frequently unable to finish.
The connection between Zach and Elijah Moore which had been lacking to this point, started to heat up to the tune of 6 catches for 77 yards. There could have been more, but Elijah and Zach had a few miscommunications. Thus the connection isn’t everything it could be, but there was progress.
Zach’s final stat line of 23 for 38 with 226 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception doesn’t look great. That does ignore the ways in which his receivers let him down. A number of those 15 incompletions hit his receivers in the hands.
Still this did not turn into the monster game it looked like we were heading to in the first half. The Jets were held scoreless in the second half. Zach owns some of the responsibility for that. There were some legitimate drops. There were also plays his receivers COULD have made which inaccuracy or suboptimal velocity made difficult than they should have been. And while Zach’s East to West pocket maneuvering was good, he ran himself into a couple of sacks still struggling in his decision making when climbing (or not climbing) the pocket. There was also an untimely airmailed interception in the second half.
I am sure you have your own takeaway. Mine is we saw more good than bad and a clear positive trajectory. That said, what comes next will do a lot to shape my viewpoint of the context of this performance. If this is a springboard to consistent improvement, this game might be remembered as a powerful positive first step. If Zach regresses going forward, it will be a footnote.
Perhaps the simplest way to put it is this. If this is one of your worst games as a quarterback, you’re going to be in good shape. If this was one of your best games going forward, you won’t love it.
There is no such ambiguity about the defense today. It was horrendous. We confirmed that last week’s domination of Houston probably had more to do with the Texans’ awfulness than it did with the Jets defense. The Jets didn’t even force a punt until there were less than 2:00 left in the fourth quarter, and that only came because a replacement center airmailed a shotgun snap over Garner Minshew’s head.
Minshew got a surprise start in this game, and you would have thought he was an All Pro based on the way the Jets defense played. Minshew finished 20 for 25 for 242 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The run defense allowed 185 yards.
No matter how you like your scoring drives, the Eagles delivered. If you like quick strike drives, Philadelphia had four scoring drives in the first half that last less than 5:00. They began the second half with a pair of field goal drives that lasted 14 and 13 plays respectively.
This Jets defense is supposedly built to prevent the big play, but they get beaten for big plays in every way imaginable. They get gashed in the run game. They get torched by throws over the top. They allow long catches and runs. They bust coverages. The unit is a mess.
So is the kicking game for that matter. The team correctly moved on from Matt Ammendola earlier in the weekend. They incorrectly decided on Alex Kessman to replace him. Kessman missed both extra points he attempted. After their third touchdown, the Jets failed on a two point conversion attempt. Considering how Kessman’s misses were the driving force behind the decision to go for two, you could say he cost the team three points.
There is little doubt the Jets will have a new kicker next weekend. There is also little doubt that Joe Douglas deserves all of the criticism he will receive for his handling of kicker. It has been a problems since day one. Across the NFL team after team finds competency from the kicker spot off the scrap heap for the league minimum. Meanwhile Douglas settles for shaky guys who don’t belong in the league. Kessman had a shaky track record in college. There was no reason this should have been the player the Jets had. Ammendola shouldn’t have been around before him. Or Sam Ficken before both of them. Or Kaare Vedvik before them. Joe Douglas has taken perhaps the easiest part of the general manager job and turned it into an unsolvable mystery.
Finally I would be remiss without talking about the officiating in this game. I think there are two truths to take from this one.
The first is an inordinate number of questionable calls went against the Jets. The second is these calls had nowhere near the impact on the outcome that many Jets fans will claim.
Yes, a very shaky third down pass interference call on Bryce Hall against Dallas Goedert extended an early second half drive. If the flag isn’t thrown, the most likely outcome is an Eagles field goal. The drive ended with an Eagles field goal. Yes, the neutral zone infraction on CJ Mosley on fourth down probably should have been a false start. That was another drive that ended in a field goal. The Jets overcame a shaky flag on a purportedly illegal block on Denzel Mims in the fourth quarter with a 19 yard completion on the next play. Later in that drive Elijah Moore drew what should have been a flag. Maybe it impacted the outcome of the drive. Maybe the Jets would have score. Maybe they wouldn’t have.
In any event, the officials didn’t decide the outcome of the game. The Jets put themselves into a deep hole in the game with their own mistakes. Even if they get all of those calls, it is difficult for me to imagine them winning the game. This was not a winning effort where there was a blown call on the decisive play. In that case you can complain about the officiating. I really don’t want to hear about it today with so much else not working.
It was not an enjoyable game, but there is at least one potential silver lining. That is the potential positive trajectory of the rookie quarterback. If last week fans were disappointed in a victory because Zach Wilson played poorly, there are positives to take from this one. We won’t know whether this is the start of something big or an isolated positive half of football. for at least another week. But if you entered this game hoping to leave with some rationale for hope, you got that if nothing else.