You never know for sure in the NFL when a win is really more than a win or a loss is really more than a loss.
Take two weeks ago. The Jets shocked the league with an upset win over the Buffalo Bills. It felt like that game might have been a springboard to contention.
Things feel very different right now after the Jets lost today to the Patriots 10-3.
The Jets entered the day a win away from first place in the division. Now they find themselves in last place in the AFC East.
Only will tell us the lasting impact of this game for sure. The Jets might just shake off the defeat and get back to winning. They still have a good chance of ending their twelve year postseason drought.
Still it doesn't require much imagination to think we ultimately might look at this game as the beginning of the end for the 2022 Jets. I hate to talk this way. I certainly hope it isn’t. But this is the kind of game that can send a team on a downward spiral.
It isn’t because this is the Jets’ 14th straight loss to the Patriots. I don’t think that has a lot of meaning. Most of those results came from Tom Brady beating up on hopelessly inept Jets teams. Few players from either side remain from the bulk of those contests.
The ripple effect could come partially from how the game ended. With a chance to get to the lead in the best division in football, the Jets lost on an 84 yard punt return touchdown in the final half minute of the fourth quarter. It won’t be easy to shake off this type of heartbreak.
It is possible, though. Some teams bounce back from devastating losses within the span of a week.
The far bigger issue for the Jets is their quarterback play.
Zach Wilson was not the only reason the Jets lost this game. However, I get the feeling a fanbase tends to sometimes mistake the quarterback not being 100 percent to blame with the quarterback being 0 percent to blame.
Sure, other players failed in this game for the Jets on offense. But with baseline competence at quarterback, the Jets win comfortably.
Zach Wilson is struggling to do basic things required of an NFL quarterback. Halfway through year two, it is becoming more and more difficult to make excuses or brush this off. It feels like he needs everything to be perfect around him just to be able to function at all.
Two weeks ago, Wilson was solid as the Jets upset Buffalo. He only threw for 154 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per attempt. There was nothing wrong with the performance. He executed what was expected from him. If that is one of your less impressive games as a young quarterback, you are well on your way to success. The problem is the Buffalo victory was near the top of Zach professional performances.
Even easy checkdowns were an adventure at this point. You can point to the wind, but a quarterback with far less arm talent in Mac Jones was able to complete 85 percent of his attempts in this game playing in the same conditions.
When Zach Wilson’s first read is open, and he has a clean pocket he is capable of succeeding. That isn’t nothing. Some quarterbacks aren’t capable of doing that. But that isn’t a recipe for consistent NFL success. If that is all you can do, you’ll pretty much be where Zach currently is. On a team with a quality supporting cast, there will be games where the team is able to win despite your struggles. There will be games where everything around you will work, and you will have a solid outing like two weeks ago against the Bills. But there will also be games like this,
I certainly don’t take any pleasure in writing this. I want Zach Wilson to succeed. I’m not here to make predictions about his future today. Hopefully he can start to grow. I’m just telling you where he is right now. It’s not where you want a second year quarterback to be.
The short term implications for the Jets produce more anxiety. A quality roster that has had a lot of fortune is now watching a promising season come into peril.
Anybody who has watched the NFL for any extended period of time can name teams where division has emerged because one unit did its job far better than the other. You wonder how players on a defense that held the opposition to a field goal will respond to losing.
Even on the offensive side of the ball, frustrations are becoming evident. After one third down incompletion, wide receiver Garrett Wilson looked visibly frustrated.
After the game, the frustration was still evident.
Garrett Wilson says "this s---'s not okay" in reference to the Jets' offense:— Jets Videos (@snyjets) November 20, 2022
"We've got the dudes. It's time to be consistent. It's time to start winning the games we should win." pic.twitter.com/eipi6rZ0sC
Perhaps just as telling was the sequence that led to the game’s decisive punt. The Jets showed little urgency on offense despite having the ball with a chance to win in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The team seemed content to let the clock run out and play for overtime. It was as though the coaching staff was saying they believed there was a bigger chance the Jets would lose if they got aggressive. There was so little faith in the offense to deliver that it was more likely they would give the ball back to the Patriots and lose than it was they would score. More distressingly, they were right.
There are positives to be had.
Sometimes losses feel existential but prove to be nothing more than bumps in the road. As I said at the start of this article, we found out today the Buffalo win really had less significance than we believed two weeks ago. Perhaps the Jets will bounce back strong and still go on a postseason run. We might remember this as nothing more than a loss that felt bigger than it really was.
Sometimes things can suddenly click for a young quarterback in unexpected ways. Maybe Zach Wilson grows from this and starts turning things around next week.
The fact we can even be upset in this situation is a positive. Many Jets fans were just hoping the team would be competitive this year. The thought of being 6-4 at Thanksgiving would have felt like a dream just a few months back. Now imagine being upset with the team at 6-4.
But I don’t want to sugar coat what happened today. This was a brutal loss, and there are plenty of disturbing signs. At no place do I see greater cause for alarm than quarterback.