Wins during an NFL season can have all sorts of meanings. Some wins spark a winning streak. A win against an elite opponent can serve as a measuring stick game, providing confidence a team has arrived. Some late season wins define a season.
And then there are the wins that aren’t particularly meaningful but are a lot of fun.
Sometimes in an otherwise lost season, there is a Sunday afternoon in December where everything finally goes right. It’s a figurative glass of water in an 18 week long desert of losing and misery. It brings some joy where there otherwise was none.
The Jets’ 30-6 victory over the Houston Texans was a surprise to many of us. The Jets didn’t look like they had much business beating anybody entering this game. They responded with their most complete effort of the season, blowing open a game that looked like a typical Jets defensive slog when the teams reached halftime scoreless.
We probably won’t look back at this as the game that put the Jets back on track in 2023. The team’s fate was sealed in the preceding five weeks. The Jets probably need to win all of their final four games to make the Playoffs. Even if they somehow went on a run, at 9-8 most statistical sites would only give them somewhere between a one and five and one and three chance of making the field.
This also probably won’t be a turning point in Zach Wilson’s career. The third year quarterback’s 301 yard, 2 touchdown day was perhaps his finest in the NFL. It was one of the rare times where he legitimately lifted up his teammates. Anything is possible, but the record of quarterbacks who started their careers similar to Wilson has few success stories, even if they do have the odd great game.
Sometimes you just need to enjoy a nice moment while it is here. This has been a season for the Jets of disappointment, heartbreak, and unfulfilled expectations. For perhaps the first time we saw this team play a complete game. Sure, the Jets entered the game with four wins. Three of those victories came when fate provided the team an unlikely boost in the fourth quarter and/or overtime. The other, against Denver, was one where the Jets were the better team but allowed their opponent to stay within striking distance through conservative play calling.
This was the first truly dominant performance we have seen out of the 2023 New York Jets. It is important to savor because the odds are against us seeing another at this point.
In addition to Wilson’s stellar play, we saw Jets players step up across the offense. Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson performed like they stars they are, each going over 100 yards from scrimmage. Tight ends Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert stepped into supporting roles. And Randall Cobb and Xavier Gipson were role players who provided timely plays in the form of touchdowns. The Jets have frequently gotten star performances from Hall and Wilson this season but have been lacking the contributions from secondary and role performers. Combining them is the formula for going from the league’s most inept offense to a 30 point in a half juggernaut.
While some offensive players stepping up might have been unexpected, the defense was its normal steady self. The only Texans points came off a second half turnover when the Jets defense was perhaps back on its heels. The front four and back seven each played its role effectively, stifling talented rookie quarterback CJ Stroud. The Jets defense made Stroud struggle the way we have seen so many Jets young quarterbacks struggle through the years.
Zach Wilson is the most recent of these Jets young quarterbacks to struggle. Just two weeks after his benching, he led the team to victory. It was surely a difficult week. Early on a report came out about him being perhaps reluctant to step back into the lineup. Later on we learned a possible reason for that, a rumor that he has already been informed the Jets are moving on from him this offseason.
It seems likely that a change of scenery is coming. Perhaps that would benefit all parties. Wilson faces a tough road to find success in his career.
But at least for one day he can be the toast of the fanbase. And for one day Jets fan can enjoy this 2023 season.