Despite outgaining the Vikings by nearly 200 yards (486 to 287) last Sunday, the Jets lost for the fifth time in 12 games largely due to the red zone discrepancy. In the Vikes three trips inside the NYJ 20, they finished with 3 TDs. Despite having twice as many advances inside the Minnesota 20, the Jets were limited to Mike White's 1-yard TD surge.
"When we got down to the 20, it was a collection of errors," OC Mike LaFleur said. "We have to get that fixed as coaches. The execution was just a little bit off, not crazy off, but any time you are 1 for 6 … it's not good enough in the red zone. … You kick field goals — you are going to lose ballgames in this league against good teams."
Trailing by 27-22 in the fourth quarter at the two-minute warning, the Jets appeared poised to take their first lead. RB Zonovan "Bam" Knight's 3-yard surge gave the Jets a second-and-goal from the 1. But Knight was stopped for no gain on second down, LaFleur called an RPO on third down to counter pressure and Mike White threw incomplete to Garrett Wilson. Then White, operating out of an empty formation, had a near completion to Braxton Berrios that the receiver couldn't corral.
"That was a play we were extremely comfortable with," LaFleur told reporters on Thursday. "We had been running it six or seven weeks at practice, waiting for that opportunity. I know it's a little unorthodox to go empty in that situation, but the point was to get people open. We did that. We just didn't execute it to get the touchdown."
White put the ball up 57 times in defeat, connecting on 31 passes for 369 yards. He had several big-time throws inside U.S. Bank Stadium, but LaFleur saw progress even before gameday.
"I thought last Thursday he had one of his best practices he's ever had here," LaFleur said. "The ball was just coming out of his hand in a Northeast, winter December-type day and I think the players saw that, too."
White, who is 1-1 as a starter this season with 300+ pass yards in both games, has averaged 287 pass yards in five career starts.
"I know the guy is a tough resilient dude and no matter what happened in the first quarter to the third quarter to last week, he's just learning and it's kind of cliché — he has ice in his veins, and he really does. Just the way he goes about his business every single day, he's not going to be too up, he's not going to be too low. He's just going to keep battling for his teammates and I think you saw that."
In the Jets' Week 9 win over the Bills, Zach Wilson threw for a modest 154 yards but was highly efficient, completing 75% of his passes against a B-Lo secondary minus S Jordan Poyer and CB Tre'Davious White. The Bills continue to shuffle their cornerbacks and in their 24-10 victory over New England in Week 13 they started veteran Xavier Rhodes and made first-round pick Kaiir Elam a gameday inactive.
"They're run two-deep there for what seems like forever now and they rotate, and those guys play hungry," LaFleur said. "Poyer being back is just huge for them, he brings that veteran leadership and that presence. In that back half, obviously those corners rotate a lot but getting Tre'Davious back has been big for them, bringing in Rhodes. It's a new cast of guys."
The Jets will have a pair of new bodies in the offensive backfield for the division rematch. In addition to White, Knight, one of two UDFA players in NFL history with at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of their first two career games, has given the offense a jolt of electricity.
"I think he's brought such a presence and a style that we needed in terms of just putting his foot in the ground and digging out yards," LaFleur said. "It's usually not even the second guy that brings him down. The whole calvary usually needs to come and that kind of style brings juice to not just myself as a play-caller, but the entire unit."
See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the road game against Buffalo.