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Five Takeaways from the Jets’ Loss to the Vikings

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets suffered a frustrating loss in the Twin Cities to the Vikings to fall to 7-5. What can we take from this game? Here are five thoughts.

The Jets defense hasn’t been the same since the bye.

I don’t think the Jets have played bad defense the last three weeks. The dominant unit on the team has been dominant for stretches in all three games.

There hasn’t been complete dominance, though. The games have all had their unique struggles. Against the Patriots, the defense kept the scoring low but allowed New England to sustain numerous drives and flip field position. Against the Bears the unit got off to a shaky start, allowing Chicago to score on its first two drives. Had Mike White not gotten off to such a hot start in that game, the Bears could have taken control early and left the Jets chasing the game.

In Week 13 against Minnesota, the Jets defense was Jekyll and Hyde. They were not allowing a ton of big plays in the first half. The unit just could never get the timely play necessary to get off the field as the Vikings went 7 for 11 on third down in the first half. On one of the four times the defense got a third down stop, Minnesota converted on fourth down. While the defense was dominant for most of the second half, a disastrous 7 play touchdown drive featuring multiple breakdowns provided the Vikings their winning score.

There isn’t one reason for these failures. The different failures each week could suggest this is just statistical noise. Still there have been warning signs recently about the defense’s play. I think for the first time since the Week 3 loss to the Bengals, you could say the defense played a primary role in a Jets loss.

Bam Knight might be a steal.

The Jets run game has had its moments since Breece Hall went down but has overall been inconsistent. In Week 12 the team turned to undrafted rookie Bam Knight, a solid preseason contributor who had been relegated to the practice squad. It felt as much as anything like Robert Saleh searching for a spark.

That spark has been provided the last two weeks. I was in wait and see mode after Knight’s first successful game against the Bears. I do want to remain somewhat cautious. Two weeks is still too early to crown a new king at running back.

Still I can’t think of much Knight could have done to be more impressive against the Vikings. He ran 15 times for 90 yards and broke a 48 yarder to ignite a Jets rally in the fourth quarter at a point where it seemed like the game was just about over. He runs tough. He can catch. He has an extra gear.

The toughest thing to figure out is why it took so long for him to get into the lineup.

At this point Knight should get a look as the lead back.

Garrett Wilson is becoming a star.

As we get deeper and deeper into the season, it seems like the Jets have found their number one receiver. Wilson has at least 90 yards in four of his last five games. The Minnesota game was his most productive game of the year as he posted 8 catches for 162 yards.

There are so many aspects of his game to love. His unconventional movement skills and balance make separations so effortless. They also allow him to fall off tackles despite being a bit on the small side.

Wilson’s season began with an amazing performance in Cleveland. A slump followed as he drew a tough slate of corners combined with Breece Hall’s emergence and the temporary transition of the Jets offense into a run focused unit.

Those days are in the past. Garrett Wilson has become the focal point for the Jets.

Mike White is still the best option at quarterback for the Jets right now.

The game against the Vikings was not a great performance by Mike White. In fact, you could make a pretty strong argument that it wasn’t even a good performance.

Still there were good moments for White and positive things to takeaway. More importantly, there were good things for the Jets offense. Even in the loss, the Jets put up close to 500 yards of offense.

It clearly is too early to talk about White being the quarterback of the future. That is a discussion for the offseason. That sort of talk isn’t really relevant to the team right now anyway. The quarterbacks on the roster are set. The Jets need to decide which one is the best for them over the final five games. Obviously performance matters most.

White has shown he can execute the offensive system at a level we frankly haven’t seen from Zach Wilson or Joe Flacco. While he made some mistakes against the Vikings and threw some inaccurate passes, he generally seems to get the passing concepts and know where the football is supposed to go.

How much staying power White has will be determined by his performance the rest of the way, but I don't have much doubt he’s currently the best option for now. Robert Saleh seems to agree since he named White his starter for the Bills game Week 14.

The Jets might look back at this loss with regret.

I have said this multiple times the last two days (and it isn’t the most original thought in the world). With each passing week, it seems more and more likely that the Jets will either make the Playoffs by a game or miss the Playoffs by a game.

When the outcome of a season is decided so narrowly, you inevitably look back to certain key moments. If the Jets end their postseason drought, there are plenty of tight victories they will remember as turning points. If they miss the Playoffs by a game, you can be sure they will remember all of the squandered opportunities to beat the Vikings. There are probably 5 to 10 plays alone that could have changed the outcome from a loss into a win.

That’s for the future, though. Now the team needs to bounce back against a very tough Bills team.