"It was freakin' fun, man. It was fun, then it wasn't fun, then it was fun again."
In 17 words, Jets QB Trevor Siemian calmly encapsulated the roller coaster ride he and his teammates endured in a heart-pumping 30-28 victory over the Washington Commanders in an unforgettable Christmas Eve game at MetLife Stadium.
Few Jets fans, players or coaches would consider the squandering of a 27-7 halftime lead to be "fun" as Washington (4-11), which lost its sixth straight game, stunned the Green & White to rally for a 28-27 lead on Antonio Gibson's 2-yard run and point after with 4:52 left in the game.
After a strong first half when he completed 15-of-26 passes for a respectable 131 yards and a TD (the first of Justin Brownlee's NFL career), the seven-year veteran and the offense went sideways in the second half. Siemian hit on 12 of 26 for a modest 86 yards in the second half, playing throughout the game behind an offensive line that was the team's 12th different combination this season.
The Jets (6-9), unable to move the ball after the Commanders' go-ahead score, punted and then held Washington to a three-and-out to get the ball back with 1:41 and acres to go for either a touchdown or a long field-goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein.
"Thankfully, the defense got a three-and-out," said Siemian, who last won a game as a starter playing for New Orleans against Tampa Bay on Oct. 31, 2021. "If they get a first down, the game's over. Hats off to the defense. They [the Jets' defense] battled. They gave us 17 in the first half and gave us one more chance at it. For them to give us another chance, that's what they've been doing all year."
Starting at their 33-yard line with a single timeout in his pocket, Siemian engineered a first down with short passes to TE Tyler Conklin (4 catches, 36 yards) and two to RB Breece Hall (who had a monster game with 12 catches, 96 yards; 20 carries for 95 yards and 2 rushing TDs). He found Hall again on first down for 14 yards to the Washington 39. After an incompletion and a Siemian scramble, the Jets called their final timeout with 13 seconds left. A pass intended for Garrett Wilson (9 catches, 76 yards) stopped the clock and Greg Zuerlein trotted onto the field to nail a 54-yard field goal attempt as the Jets grabbed back the lead.
"It was a blast competing, I just wish I had played better," Siemian said. "There's nothing like it, competing and playing, and finding a way. It's not always pretty, just finding a way to win. Finding a way to win is special in this league and those moments in the locker room are the best."
Siemian, who is playing for his seventh NFL team after being drafted by Denver in their Super Bowl winning season in 2015, and the Jets offense failed to put much positive on tape in the second half when they punted five times and saw the game's momentum ship in Washington's favor when a Siemian pass was intercepted inside the 10 with the Jets driving for a score that could have made it 34-7. Instead, QB Jacoby Brissett replaced Sam Howell and led the Commanders back into the game ... and the lead.
"It started with G [Garrett Wilson], I wanted to get him the ball," Siemian said. "I wanted to get him the ball and I was just late coming back to the other side of the field. I know better. You can't turn the ball over down there."
He added: "In the second half, I missed a few throws. I fell out of sync a little bit there."
In his second start for the Jets (and the 31st start of his career), Siemian kept his cool when it mattered most. He said that he tuned out the noise and concentrated only on the voice of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett speaking to him in his helmet.
"Hack called an awesome game, a ton of poise," Siemian said. "You have one voice in your headset, you have a bunch of crap going on, but one voice in your headset. Having somebody who has poise, walking you through, giving you enough information but not too much. I can't tell you how important that is. Hack did a heck of a job, kept me straight the whole way. Yeah, he did an awesome job."
With the win, Siemian upped his record as a starter in the NFL to 14-17, savoring the tumult and the triumph two days away from his 32nd birthday.
"It's fun those moments winning the game, winning for teammates, your coaches, the hugs maybe I took for granted earlier in my career nothing like that. It's a rush. I'm just happy for our guys and happy to be part of the team. Yeah, you always remember these and hang on to them for a while."
See postgame photos from the Christmas Eve win over the Commanders.