The Jets had the most stunning upset of the NFL season in the bag. But in agonizing fashion, they blew it.
It was fourth-and-2 from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ seven-yard line. The Jets were going for it with just 2:17 left on the clock instead of kicking a field goal which would’ve given them a 27-20 lead.
With Tom Brady itching to get back on the field to salvage the game, and the Jets at 4-11 playing for nothing involving playoffs, it made perfect sense. But the ensuing play didn’t.
It was a quarterback sneak by Zach Wilson and the Jets didn’t pull it off. Then, enters Brady, who does this quite often: Leads his team down the field on a game-winning drive. Bucs win.
“I don’t believe in moral victories,” head coach Robert Saleh said after the game. “You win and you lose.”
There had to be an explanation for the Jets opting for a QB sneak in that situation, and Saleh said that there was. It was a total lack of communication from OC Mike LaFleur to Wilson in the huddle.
“It was a reverse to [Braxton] Berrios,” Saleh explained. “Quarterback has an option based on the look that he has to sneak the ball. In that situation, we wanted the ball handed off to Berrios. We did a very poor job as a coaching staff communicating that in the huddle and Zach executed the playbook as it’s designed.
“Unfortunately, if you look at the TV copy again, Braxton probably has a first down and the game’s over. Poor job on our part for the lack of communication.”
See it for yourself. It does look like the snap was well-timed to give Berrios the quick handoff and his speed might have even gotten him in the end zone to really ice it.
Wilson was asked the same question after the game about the play call, and just as Saleh noted, the rookie quarterback believed he did what was right.
“I did what I thought was necessarily to do right there,” Wilson, who had a tremendous game with 234 yards and one touchdown, said. “That was in my parameters and Coach LaFleur understands that. It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, I hand that off and we get the first down.’”
“It’s unfortunate that we’re going to be talking about the last sequence of events there, but I thought our guys were outstanding today,” Saleh added. “They deserve better. We won that game and we’ve gotta be better for our players. Zach was outstanding, our run game was outstanding. All the way across the board, everyone was outstanding.”
Saleh may not take moral victories, but some Jets fans might. They were 14-point underdogs going into this game and they defied all odds, taking a lead into the half and holding it all the way until Brady was Brady in the end.
Ultimately, Saleh is chalking this game up on the coaches because he felt the players did their duty.
It’s up to the coaches to make sure that they are guided properly for 60 minutes.
Unfortunately for the Jets, the game plan was executed perfectly for only 58.
“I think it goes back to our overall message: Obviously everything we do is to win football games. Everything, so we should be pissed off about that,” Saleh said.
“But at the same time, we’ve got a young group that’s come a long way this season and I know it doesn’t show on the won-loss record, but the process at which we approach this week and the way we attack the field and the way we attacked this game and didn’t flinch at all throughout the entire course of the game, there’s going to be a lot of things that we can learn off of.
“I’m not going to let one sequence destroy what I thought was an unbelievable winning effort against a championship football team. They deserve better.”