Cougars in the pros: Zach Wilson steps in for Aaron Rodgers in Jets win
Former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson helped pilot the Jets to a Monday night victory over Buffalo in relief of the injured Aaron Rodgers.
Monday’s matchup between the Jets and Bills was highly anticipated. Fans were excited to witness Rodgers’ debut with the Jets in primetime.
Rodgers was traded to the Jets during the offseason, joining a team that had struggled with its quarterback play the previous season. The main Jets quarterback from last year was former No. 2 overall draft selection Wilson, who had a challenging season in throwing only six touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Jets had narrowly missed the playoffs with the 26th-ranked offense and the fourth-ranked defense, so bringing in Aaron Rodgers held two major goals: to complement the defense with a stronger offense and to allow Wilson to learn from a veteran quarterback to become more comfortable in the NFL.
The plan was expedited on just the fourth offensive snap for the Jets when Leonard Floyd sacked Rodgers, who came up limping before falling back to the ground. Rodgers left the game and was replaced by Wilson. Eventually, Rodgers was taken off the field and placed in a boot. It was time for Wilson to demonstrate what he had learned during his short time as a backup to the future Hall of Famer.
The Jets faced a 2nd and 20 situation as Wilson entered the game. His first play resulted in a seven yard pass completion to Garrett Wilson. After another short completion of six yards, the Jets were forced to punt.
On their next offensive drive, Wilson completed a 22-yard pass to Allen Lazard, who had come to New York from Green Bay along with Rodgers. The drive eventually stalled as Wilson was sacked, and the Jets punted again.
Following an interception, the Jets took over in Bills territory and managed to secure a field goal.
However, on the Jets’ final offensive possession of the first half, Wilson threw an interception, giving Buffalo the ball back. ESPN commentator Troy Aikman described the INT as “a terrible read.” The team still showed their faith in Wilson as their quarterback, with wide Receiver Garrett Wilson encouraging him after the interception.
The Bills went into halftime with a 13-3 lead. The Jets began the second half with possession, and Wilson led a solid drive that resulted in a field goal. Despite two more interceptions by the Jets on defense, the offense could not capitalize, leading to two more punts.
With five minutes left in the game, Wilson connected with his receiver Wilson in the end zone to tie the game at 13.
Wilson led another drive that resulted in a field goal, giving the Jets a 16-13 lead. The Bills answered back, tying the game and forcing overtime.
In overtime, the Jets managed to stop the Bills with their defense. Jets rookie Xavier Gipson then returned the Bills’ punt for a walk-off touchdown.
Zach Wilson finished the game with 140 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Speculation regarding Rodgers’ injury persisted throughout the game, but nothing was confirmed. After the game, Jets head coach Robert Saleh stated that they believed Rodgers had torn his Achilles and described the situation as “not good.” Rodgers would undergo an MRI the following day for an official diagnosis.
When asked about Wilson’s performance, Saleh said, “I thought he was awesome.” Saleh reiterated the team’s faith in Wilson, stating that “he will be the guy” moving forward.
Wilson mentioned that he needs to “keep getting better” and expressed his gratitude towards Rodgers, saying that Rodgers had helped him feel “a lot more prepared” to be an NFL quarterback. Given the long season ahead, Wilson emphasized the need to “not get too high or low” and to take things “one week at a time.”