In the end, the Jets' second-year quarterback Zach Wilson did what he had to do, what the delirious fans of the Green & White have long been waiting for their team and their QB to do -- engineer a 13-play, 86-yard drive that ate up 6:10 of the fourth quarter, leading to Greg Zuerlein's game-winning 28-yard field goal. Those precious 3 points gave the Jets a heart-pounding 20-17 AFC East victory over the first-place Buffalo Bills.
After Wilson threw three interceptions in last week's loss to New England, his first behind center in his first five starts this season, the discussion quickly turned from the Jets' four-game winning streak as Wilson landed hard under the microscope.
"I mean, it shows we obviously don't care what anybody says, right?" Wilson said after the game. "We expected to win this game as a team. And of course, we understand they're a good team and so are we. So, the mindset is that we should be able to go out there and compete. We knew it was going to be close. We were able to finish in crunch time."
If the Jets continue to play well -- and play meaningful games in December -- they will probably look back at their final scoring drive in "crunch time" as a defining moment. With the score tied, 17-17, after an exchange of punts, Wilson and the Jets engineered that spectacular drive that began in the shadow of their end zone.
"I think we were ready, whenever our name was called, we were ready for that kind of challenge," T Cedric Ogbuehi said of the final drive, which started with eight consecutive runs, taking the ball from the Jets' 4-yard line to the Bills' 18 with 2:08 to play. "I think we answered the challenge."
See the best images from the 20-17 win against the Bills.
Facing third-and-five, Wilson hit WR Denzel Mims with a laser-strike on a slant route for a first down.
"When it comes down to crunch time, who's your big-body guy?" Wilson said, referring to Mims, the 6-3 receiver who was inactive for the first six games this season, but who has been called on to replace the injured Corey Davis. "That's going to be separation that comes out to play and you know, great separation by him and huge play by him to show up at crunch time."
Wilson said he knew there would be man-to-man coverage on the right flank because Garrett Wilson, the rookie from Ohio State who had 8 catches for 92 yards, had nicked the Bills all game and drew double coverage on the left side.
While the Jets rushed for 51 yards against the Patriots in the first game without the rookie RB Breece Hall (who is out for the season), against Buffalo the Jets knew the run game would be key in keeping the Bills, QB Josh Allen and WR Stefon Diggs off the field, where they couldn't do any damage.
Overall, the Jets rushed for 174 yards, with Michael Carter leading the team with 76 yards on 12 attempts and James Robinson, signed after Hall's injury, went for 48 yards on 17 carries. But it was on that final drive that Carter carried 3 times for 36 and Robinson 5 times for 33.
"You play with what's going," said Wilson, who was an economical 18-of-25 passing for 154 yards and a TD. "We had a couple of options, but saw how well the run game was going so we were going to keep feeding them until something changed. The guys up front wanted to run the ball."
Wilson finished with a 101.1 passer rating, his best in his 20 starts in the NFL and also checked in with 72% accuracy. Perhaps the only blemish was a strip sack by Buffalo's Von Miller that ended a 14-play drive to open the second half. But only two plays later, top draft pick Sauce Gardner came up with the second pick of his NFL career, leading to Wilson's 7-yard TD pass to Robinson that put the Jets ahead, 17-14.
"You know, I get the strip sack there, and it sucks," Wilson said. "But we come right back with the turnover."
Asked if he thought the Jets authored a statement game that sends a message to the rest of the NFL, Wilson said: "We don't look at it that way. A win's a win, and they're hard to come by in this league. We know the confidence we have, and I think the great part is that no one in the locker room cares about what anyone outside here says. If anyone outside mattered, they'd be coaches, they'd be players."
And speaking of head coach Robert Saleh, he had nothing but encouragement and compliments for his second-year QB.
"I'll say the same thing I've been saying all week -- he's fine," Saleh said. "To play quarterback in this league comes with all the blame and all the glory. He's poised, he prepared well and did a lot of really good things [in the game]. He kept his composure. Nothing was too big for him. He's going to be a good football player. He's still a pup."
At least for the next couple of weeks, it's all about the glory.