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Jets 31 Browns 30: Miracle By the Lake

NFL: New York Jets at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s difficult to find the right words to describe a game like that.

Today is a reminder of why we all watch sports. Game after game, year after year we watch. Sometimes our favorite team wins. Sometimes they lose. Most of the games are ultimately forgettable.

Occasionally, though, something special happens. You get the pure exhilaration of watching your team do something that hasn’t happened in 2,229 games. And it is all worth it.

I have no idea whether this game will matter for the Jets going forward. They could easily get blown out next week by the Bengals. They could be on their way to another disappointing season full of losses.

But sometimes a win like this changes everything. It changes a season. It even changes a coach and general manager’s tenure. It gives the team confidence. It gives the team momentum. In a league where teams are so close in talent level and games are narrowly decided, a victory like this can launch a surprise team.

Without knowing the long-term implications for sure, Jets fans would be well-advised to just enjoy this game for the next few days. This feeling might very well end up fleeting.

In any event, I think there was at least one significant long-term development from this game. That was the play of Garrett Wilson. The rookie receiver registered 8 catches for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of them was the game-winner.

Is it premature to say, “A star is born?” Probably, but I’ll do it anyway. Wilson’s ability to get open is effortless.

Much has been made of the four players the Jets selected in the top 40 of this year’s NFL Draft. Fans are dreaming of a 2000 type haul. That year the Jets also selected four players early. All four (along with third round pick Laveranues Coles) were useful NFL players to varying degrees.

Even with an excess of early picks, that isn’t the most realistic hope for the 2022 Jets Draft class. Drafting well is an inexact science, and there are always misses.

With that said, I think we tend to undersell just how big of an impact one or two hits can make on a team. It can change everything. Just look at how different the offense looks with a player like Wilson in there. I have no issue with forcing a rookie to earn his spot on the field. It seems like prior to today Jets coaches have been doing just that with Wilson making him a part-time player. With confidence, I think we can say those days should be in the rear view mirror. Wilson has officially earned a full-time role.

In another positive development, fellow rookie skill player Breece Hall took a step forward today. The Iowa State product showed an extra gear, running for 50 yards on just 7 carries and adding a 10 yard touchdown reception. It is anybody’s guess whether Zach Wilson will live up to his promise once he returns, but it certainly seems like the Jets have provided him with quality weapons to make his life easier. For once the Jets seem to be putting their young quarterback in a position to succeed and giving him a fighting chance.

For now, however, Wilson is out, and Joe Flacco is the quarterback. Flacco posted a monster statistical line, throwing for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns. Somebody who didn't see the game and only engaged in box score scouting would believe Flacco turned back the clock and summoned a performance reminiscent of his prime in Baltimore.

Did he really? Well, kind of. On the last drive of the game after the Jets recovered an onside kick, Flacco looked assertive. It was as though he saw the finish line and found that extra gear. The game-winner to Wilson was an absolute strike.

Aside from that, how was Flacco? I think any objective observer would say he wasn’t really, “FOUR TOUCHDOWNS BABY!!!!!” good. But for the most part he hit the throws a competent NFL quarterback should hit. It was a huge improvement over his disaster of a game last week against Baltimore. Given where he is at this stage of his career, I think the best you could reasonably hope for is hitting the easy ones and hoping he finds that extra gear in crunch time. After 58 minutes in this game the Jets were losing, but I don’t think it would have been fair to say Flacco was a primary reason they were behind. At the very least, the calls for Mike White will likely quiet, at least for one week.

It was also a bounceback performance from Jets special teams. Greg Zuerlein hit a 57 yard field goal and the game-winning extra point a week after he missed a field goal and a PAT. Yes, the extra point should be automatic, even when it is for the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Still, the reason it was for the lead is Cleveland’s kicker missed an extra point attempt. Jets special teams also recovered an onside kick to give the team a chance to win in the final minute.

If there was a negative, it was clearly the defense. To put it plainly, the unit was terrible. If not for the miracle finish, their performance would be the number one story of the day. They allowed a Browns team with a backup quarterback to put up 30 points. There were only three Cleveland punts all day. There was nothing redeemable. Jacoby Brissett threw for 285 yards and had only five incompletions. After bottling up the Browns rushing attack early, Cleveland ended the game with 184 yards on the ground and a 5 yard average per carry. The Jets registered only a single sack, albeit an important one in the fourth quarter. They lost in the trenches. The linebacker play was bad. The safeties were frequently out of position. It was ugly all around. Any positive feelings from the Week 1 performance against Baltimore are gone, and the unit deserves to be under the microscope this week.

Fortunately for the defense, they were bailed out by the final result.

Of course whenever a game turns like this, a lot of attention will be paid to what the losing team did wrong. And of course the Jets had their fair share of luck in this game. The Browns were an unforced error machine in the final three minutes of this game from Kareem Hunt running out of bounds just before the two minute warning to Nick Chubb scoring a touchdown rather than going down to the complete bust in coverage that resulted in a layup 66 yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Corey Davis.

But as we all know, the Jets have been on the wrong end of plenty of games like this. The Jets contributed to their own demise in these games. The other team never gave these games back when the Jets lost them. The Jets shouldn’t feel any less great about this win because of Cleveland’s errors. There were two parts of this, Browns failure and Jets success. The Jets should be ecstatic with their own resiliency and opportunism.

Wins are beautiful things no matter how they come. This one feels more beautiful than most, and a downtrodden fanbase will get to bask in it for seven days.