Joe Flacco got his only game action of the preseason and led the Jets offense to three points — but also helped the Giants put seven points of their own on the MetLife Stadium scoreboard — in a mixed-bag four possessions as the Green & White's starting quarterback during their 31-27 win over the Giants on Sunday afternoon.
Flacco wasn't in uniform for the Jets' season opener at Philadelphia, then suited up and warmed up but did not play on Monday night against Atlanta. But with the possibility that Zach Wilson's rehab might not be completed by opening day, Sept. 11, vs. Baltimore at MetLife Stadium, it seemed a natural opportunity for head coach Robert Saleh to get Flacco — plus all his first-teamers on offense and defense — quality playing time into the second quarter in their annual summer soiree against the Giants.
"Initially you want to go out there, go through pregame, and get the feeling you're getting ready for a game and all those kinds of things," Flacco said of his 21 offensive snaps over those four series. "And you want to go out there and have a few good drives and feel good about it."
Flacco's first three drives pretty well filled that bill. On the first offensive series of the game, the 15th-year quarterback directed a 10-play, 51-yard drive that ended only when RB Michael Carter lost a fumble at the end of a reception.
Drive No. 2 was four plays and punt, but it opened with a 20-yard connection from Flacco to veteran TE Tyler Conklin. And the third possession, starting in plus-territory after CB Michael Carter II intercepted Giants QB Tyrod Taylor, picked up another first-play first down on rookie Breece Hall's 11-yard run before stalling and bringing on K Greg Zuerlein, who drilled a 49-yard field goal attempt down the middle to give the Jets a 3-0 lead with 2:39 left in the first quarter.
But Flacco made a crucial error on his fourth drive early in the second quarter when he rolled to his right looking for an open receiver. He thought Carter was that receiver out of the backfield but the QB didn't see LB Austin Calitro lying in wait. Calitro snared Flacco's toss and took it down the left sideline for a 35-yard interception-return TD and a 10-3 Giants lead.
That play ended his day of activity with 12:18 left in the first half. He finished with seven completions in 12 throws for 76 yards and the one INT. He wasn't sacked.
"It's definitely aggravating the way things ended there, just the way we turned the ball over," he said. "I was trying to hold on as long as I could and I feel like Michael was kind of breaking up the field as I was heading toward the out-of-bounds line. I just tried to get it up over his head and I kind of yanked it right to the guy's chest. So definitely annoying that that happened."
Mike White took over the Green & White offense from there and looked right at home on an eight-play, 75-yard drive to the tying touchdown, scored when White hit WR Braxton Berrios, who slipped a tackle and took the pass 21 yards down his left sideline for the score. On the drive, White completed all four of his passes for 54 yards and with the TD pass he had a "perfect" 158.3 passer rating for the game at that point.
On White's second series of the first half, he completed two more passes in four attempts, with one of them a pretty 16-yard hookup with WR Denzel Mims over the middle for the second-and-10 conversion
White's final first-half foray was a two-minute drill — actually a 1:04 drill with three timeouts from the Jets 35 — before intermission. His first play was a pass on the slant to Mims, who caught it for 13 yards. His second play was another laser, to TE Lawrence Cager for 19 yards to move the Jets into Zuerlein's range.
But White and the Jets wanted more. He then went to Jeff Smith twice, for 14 yards and a 19-yard TD strike as the Jets took the lead back at 17-10 with 26 seconds left in the half.
See the best images from the preseason finale against the New York Giants.
White played into the top of the fourth quarter, getting no points on his two second-half drives before turning the offense over to Chris Streveler (more on Comeback Chris in other stories on newyorkjets.com). For the game, White completed 13 of 17 for 170 yards and the two TD passes, with no sacks or INTs, for a 146.7 rating,.
The preseason is the preseason, of course, but White never doubts the value of getting some reps with the offense in game situations, and especially game-winning situations.
"When you close out a preseason with a performance like today, it helps," he said. "We can carry that confidence and momentum into the season. But I thought it was good. I was presented with a lot of different situations that I learned a lot from and I'll build on the positives and learn from the negatives and not let it happen again.
Flacco surely agrees, but he and his offensive mates and Saleh will be answering a slightly different set of questions for the next two weeks before opening day arrives: Did the ones get enough playing time this preseason?
This is the first time this group of five [starting O-linemen] has been out there," Saleh said. "There are no excuses. The mindset, the mentality, the physicality — all of it needs to get better. At the same time, I am not discouraged. We have a really good group of guys and there is no doubt that they will get to where they need to go. If anything, it's a good little wakeup call."
As for Flacco and if he's personally ready for Season No. 15 that could start with him as the Jets' starter, he said:
"Yeah, for sure. Listen, there are plenty of guys around the league that don't even play in the preseason anymore. I think it's very beneficial to go through getting ready for a game, going out there and getting live reps all the time. But, yes."
As in yes, Joe's ready.