The first questioner on Thursday asked Jets quarterback Mike White if he could overcome what happened last season in a game against Buffalo.
"What happened a year ago?" White deadpanned to a smattering of giggles from the assembled media gaggle.
Then he got serious.
"It's a good opportunity," he said. "I learned a lot from it. I tried my best to close the book on that and move. It's a really good test for the team, it's a tough place to place and they're rolling right now."
He added: "It's one of those things that will sit with me longer. As an athlete, you're going to have those tough games. I had them in high school and I still think about them. You're always going to be part of it developing as a quarterback. I just don't want it to beat me twice."
Of course the game last season elicited all the questions that White has been asked about nearly since the end of the Jets' 27-22 loss at Minnesota last Sunday when White was 31-of-57 passing for 369 yards. Heading into Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., White has put together 3 games with 315-plus passing yards in a mere five career starts.
That makes him one of only six NFL QBs in the Super Bowl era to turn the trick. In addition, he is in vaunted company with Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Josh Allen (his opposing number on Sunday), Jalen Hurts and Geno Smith to throw for 300 or more yards in consecutive games this season.
But it's that one game against Buffalo at MetLife Stadium last season, a game that got away from White and the Jets to the tune of 45-17.
"I'm sure there's a lot of things that he learned from even in that moment just to take his game forward from that moment on to where we are now," head coach Robert Saleh said earlier this week. "The game was going OK in the first half, we were moving the ball, but they scored right before the half if I remember right. I got to dig into this, but it was 17, then they scored right out of the locker room. Now we're down, 24-3. Then we throw an interception and now it's 31-3, just like that. Now you're chucking it all over the place and doing what you really don't want to do, which is push the ball downfield in a desperate frame of mind, and when you're playing a top defense like that, you're probably going to turn the ball over. It was one of those games that kind of snowballed on the entire team, not just him [White], and he was put in a really bad situation."
That game was White's final start of the 2021 season. His next chance came when Saleh decided that second-year man Zach Wilson needed a "reset," naming White the starter against the Bears, a 31-10 win a couple of weeks ago. Against the Vikings last week, White led the Jets (7-5) back from a 20-3 deficit to within inches to snatching the victory. For all the team's success and domination of the second half, the Jets were 1 of 6 in the red zone (White's 1-yard squeeze for a TD). The Bills (9-3) lead the AFC East and are still smarting from their Week 9, 20-17, loss to the Jets at MetLife.
"I feel good with the guys out there," White said. "I think we have a lot of fun. [Last] Sunday was a heartbreaker, but we did a lot of good stuff to build on. I think what I'm most proud of is that we were down 17 on the road in a 9-2 team's building. We didn't flinch. There was no moaning on the sideline. We just knew we were on the cusp. The coolest thing was just sitting back and watching everything happen in front of you."
See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the road game against Buffalo.
Foremost among those things happening "in front of you" were several of the Green & White's big plays engineered by the fourth-year QB. The Jets had 7 plays in the game go for more than 20 yards, 5 of them passes. He has quickly created a connection with rookie WR Garrett Wilson, who caught 8 passes in the game for a career-high 162 yards, which included a 60-yard gainer that was nearly a TD, had Wilson not stepped out of bounds.
"For the most part Garrett ... you know this route concept requires him to win in this general area," White said. "For most of the time, he's going to win, pick up on indicators. He's getting better every week and it's fun to watch. He seems to get DBs with their backs turned and any time their backs are turned it makes it hard for them to make a play on the ball. And he seems to be doing that a lot lately. I throw to where the route calls for and he'll make a play more often than not."
Over the past few weeks, ever since he decided to go with White as the starter and Joe Flacco as the backup, Saleh has been asked if he'll stick with White the rest of the season. And each time Saleh has repeated that it's a week-to-week proposition. The QB echoed the HC on Thursday.
"It's important to live in the moment," White said. "Once you start worrying about other things, your mind wanders. The entire team has done a good job going week to week, playing a one-week season.
"I would say the only thing I think about is playing that game that week, knowing there are 52 other guys in the locker room who I want to go out and perform well for. Just keep going and see where this thing takes me. It's not a cliché that it's one week at a time. I do have confidence in myself knowing we can go out, move the ball and help score points. That [keeping the starting job] is the furthest thing from my mind. Game prep is too hard and if you let your mind wander you get in a bad place."