On Wednesday Mike White said that he had no desire to play "hero ball," as he called it, when he was named the Jets starter replacing Zach Wilson. Four days later, White and his big cast of co-stars helped lead the Green & White to a 31-10 victory over the Bears on a rainy and chilly afternoon at MetLife Stadium,
"I thought today was a complete team win," White said after completing 22-of-28 passes for 315 yards, 3 TDs and a 149.3 QB rating in his first start of the season. "The defense dominated and flew around the field and made plays. We ran well when we needed to, the guys were running hard. I felt like it's a complete team win."
The victory upped the Jets' record to 7-4, 3 more wins than the team had all last season. According to stats from the NFL, teams with a 7-4 record have made the playoffs 71.4% of the time, since 1990. They remain in the thick of the playoff race in the AFC and in the race for first place in the AFC East. The next two weeks -- games at Minnesota and at Buffalo -- will be a challenge and play a big role in how the rest of the regular season plays out.
For White, however, Sunday's performance -- when he again heard Jets fans chant his name in the fourth quarter -- was reminiscent of his first NFL start, last season against Cincinnati. In that game, one of three starts he made last season while Wilson was injured, White threw for 405 yards, 3 touchdowns and caught a 2-point conversion pass in the win on Halloween. White set an NFL record for most completions (37) in a quarterback's first start and joined Cam Newton (422) as the only quarterbacks since 1950 to debut by throwing for 400 yards or more.His No. 5 jersey from that game ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.
White's 149.3 passer rating on Sunday was the fifth-best by a Jets starting QB with at least 20 pass attempts in franchise history, and second-best at home. The only better home-game rating was Joe Namath's 149.31 (calculated retroactively against Boston in 1966. Namath's rating that day was 149.31; White's was 149.26)
"It was awesome just to go out there and play football with your friends," White said. "To be out there, to be a part of it and help the team win was fun."
Head coach Robert Saleh said he was not surprised by White's strong and steady play against Chicago.
"He did a great job," Saleh said. "He didn't need to be anybody other than Mike White. We just wanted him to play within himself and play efficiently. Especially in the elements, he made it look easy. I thought he did a really good job with that."
And it started from the game's very first possession, when the Jets went on a 9-play, 75-yard drive that burned nearly 5 minutes from the game clock. It was the first time this season New York scored a touchdown on the team's opening drive as the possession culminated on White's 8-yard TD to Garrett Wilson.
"We wanted to execute the opener well," White said. "[Scoring] was good for the offense and for the team, too, to respond from the game we had last week [the 10-3 loss at New England] and get everyone's confidence going. To bounce back was big."
White was generous with the pigskin, spreading it around to a total of 10 players. Wilson had 5 catches for 95 yards, his fifth 90-game of the season and had 2 TD catches for the second time this season to set a franchise rookie record. Second-year wideout Elijah Moore had 2 grabs for 64 yards and a TD. Each WR contributed a chunk play -- Wilson's 54-yarder catch-and-run went for a TD, while Moore and White collaborated on a 42-yard play.
"I think it's just going through your progressions as a quarterback and taking what's there," White said. "It's not so much and when you get man coverage, then you might be picky, but it's just playing within the offense and executing the play that's called and guys stepping up and that just shows the confidence that those guys have and we have in them. It's not so much who, but what route. Know what I mean?"
Saleh's decision to start White and the subsequent victory gives the Jets their best record through 11 games since opening the 2010 season with a 9-2 record. That, coincidentally, the last season the Jets went to the postseason.
White was "mastering the obvious," Saleh said. "He did a really good job getting rid of the ball and getting it to where needed to go. He was aggressive when he needed to be. I don't think there's a guy in the locker room who didn't think he could perform."
White said he heard the fans chanting his name, saying: "Yeah, I heard. That's always cool. I'm not going to sit here and give you some quarterback cliché, but I think it would be a lot cooler if they weren't doing it when we're trying to snap the ball."