It has been a trial by fire through the first six games of the season for Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
Four plays into the game on opening night against Buffalo, Wilson was thrust into the NFL maelstrom when the veteran Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles tendon. All Wilson did was help guide the Jets (3-3) to come back and beat the Bills in overtime.
Now, with a week off in front of them and a 20-14 victory over the previously unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) behind them, Wilson has helped to take down teams piloted by Josh Allen (Buffalo), Russell Wilson (Denver) and on Sunday night it was Jalen Hurts.
"It's huge, a big win for us against an unbelievable team, a good team on the other side," Wilson, who was 19-of-33 passing for 186 yards, and again played a clean, albeit touchdown-less game. "We haven't had any easy ones. We needed this win. We kept fighting. Our O-linemen stepped in -- Max [Mitchell] and Wes [Schweizter]. We were battling across the board. There is no quit in this team."
Mitchell, a second-year tackle, started for Alijah Vera-Tucker, who sustained a season-ending Achilles tendon tear last week at Denver, and the veteran Schweitzer was called on during the game when rookie Joe Tippmann sustained a leg injury.
Wilson and his jubilant Jets teammates know there's finishing, which needs improvement, and then there's FINISHING -- as in playing until every last drop has been rung out of each and every player. While the Green & White defense kept the Jets in the game with four takeaways (3 INTs and a fumble recovery), the offense failed to score a TD until Breece Hall's 8-yard run with 1:56 to play capped yet another heart-stopping comeback.
"Zach is getting better every week, we're all getting better," Hall, 12 carries for 39 yards, told ESPN radio after the game. "You know with Aaron, he's so seasoned and he's seen so many different looks and has adjustments and checks he gives us. Now Zach is starting to get that from him. He's comfortable, making plays with his legs [4 runs for 15 yards] and helping us out."
The Jets' second consecutive victory came after they fell behind by double digits in the first half for the fourth straight home game. New York was also kept out of the end zone in its first three red-zone trips (1 of 4 overall) while converting only 2 of 11 on third down (and 0 of 1 on fourth down).
"We're that freaking close offensively," head coach Robert Saleh. "He [Wilson] ran the boot [late in the third quarter], it's a sack, just miscommunication, we should have had someone in the flat to throw to. Look at all the penalties. If we don't get called for that crackback [by Allen Lazard] that erased a 25-yard completion to Garrett Wilson to the Eagles' 9 in the third quarter]. ... We had a lot of opportunities. We did a nice job moving the ball in the second half, he [Z.Wilson] looked good.
"But we have to finish. We're that close."
See the best game action photos from Sunday's win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The defense was lights out in the second half, holding Philadelphia scoreless in five series that went punt, punt, interception, missed field goal ... and finally ... an interception by second-year safety Tony Adams that set up Hall's game-winning scamper.
Before that happened, Z.Wilson said he was not averse to throwing the ball up to G.Wilson (8 catches for 90 yards) as the Jets were driving for a possible go-ahead score late in the third quarter. After being sacked on that bootleg Saleh mentioned and facing a third-and-17 at Philly's 20-yard line, Z.Wilson lofted a pass to G.Wilson inside the end zone on the deep left. It was broken up by James Bradberry.
Overall, Z.Wilson connected with 10 different receivers, using Hall's versatility out of the backfield on 5 passes for 54 yards and hitting TE Tyler Conklin 3 times for 24 yards.
"That was the goal tonight, throw it up there and let him get it," Z.Wilson said of G.Wilson. "The one in the red zone ... maybe a checkdown instead, but if we want to score a TD. I want to go give him a shot. That's what you have to do when they play you tight."
With Rodgers in the building, throwing passes before the game and staying on the sideline the entire game -- the first win over the Eagles in franchise history (1-12) -- the guy Saleh called a "freakazoid" for his quick recovery, the HC said that Z.Wilson and the offense are coming on.
"He did a good job, a lot of good things," Saleh said. "We have to clean up third down, finishing in the red zone. That's always going to be a thing with a quarterback. He gave Garrett a couple of chances to make plays, on the drive with the crackback, I thought the drive was awesome from him. He will continue to get better."
Finally, on Z.Wilson, Saleh said: "I think he's played a gauntlet of defenses -- Buffalo, Dallas, the Patriots and now Philly. Top five defenses. He's been playing pretty good ball."