Zach Wilson prepared all week for Sunday's game, but against a ferocious Cowboys defense that spent a lot of time in the Jets backfield, he and the offense had few answers in the 30-10 loss at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys' defense packed the box and limited the Jets' rushing attack to 64 yards, 36 of which were picked up by Wilson as he scrambled (36 of which came on a drive to a field goal that ended the first half).
"Up until the fourth quarter when he had to force things, I thought he [Zach Wilson] did a really nice job," head coach Robert Saleh said. "He hit that route to Garrett and did a nice job at the end of the half moving the chains and getting points. But when you have to drop back against those guys, it's not going to be pretty."
As Dallas dominated time of possession (42:15 to 17:25) and had nearly double the number of plays on offense (83 to 46) while converting half of its third downs (9 of 18) while the Jets were 1 of 10 on third down.
Asked about the offense's struggle to stay on the field, Wilson said: "Not good. I want to say the biggest thing was not being able to convert on third down. Not being in a good position to play third-and-short, which is where you've got to be in this league to score. You saw what it did to our defense. You can't go three-and-out, you have to give them [the defense] a break."
Trailing by 10-0 early in the second quarter, the Jets used play action (with Wilson pulling the ball back from RB Dalvin Cook), as the quarterback hit WR Garrett Wilson over the middle for a 68-yard scoring play, his pro career long reception, that brought the Jets within 3 points. The Wilson-to-Wilson collaboration has now connected on TD passes in consecutive games.
"They were stacking the box with a five-man front," Z.Wilson said. "I wanted to get it to him. It was a good play-action pass, the guys [on the offensive line] held up and he [G.Wilson] ran a good route and did the rest. It was a good call by Hack [offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett]."
On their next possession, however, the Cowboys drove 75 yards in 13 plays, converting three times on third down before Luke Schoonmaker caught a 1-yard pass from Dak Prescott. Dallas added a 2-point conversion for a 11-point lead with fewer than two minutes left in the half.
But Wilson put together a strong drive, hitting a couple of passes before scrambling 12 yards to the Dallas 37, and then 16 more yards to the 21, and again for 5 yards to the Cowboys' 16.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Z. Wilson saw an open G. Wilson along the left sideline. But as Wilson was about to throw the pass, Cowboys DL Dexter Lawrence grazed his hand. The ball fell well short of its intended destination.
"Before the end of the half, he has a TD," Saleh said, "If his elbow doesn't get hit. ..."
In describing the incompletion, Wilson said that it was actually his hand that had been hit, not his elbow, which blew up the play.
"It's so frustrating," Wilson said. "We called a great play. In that situation, the ball has to get out and the play has to go out of bounds to get a field goal. Garrett was my safe throwaway. Just rip it to the pylon. But he [Lawrence] got a piece of the ball. Those are the ones we need to connect on."
See the best game action photos during the Week 2 matchup against the Cowboys.
The Jets settled for the field goal by Austin Seibert, who was signed during the week to fill in for the injured Greg Zuerlein.
Dallas held the ball for 10:58 in the third quarter, to the Jets' 4:02, but could only add 6 points on two field goals.
"We just have to keep going," Wilson said. "This team has a lot of grit. We're not going to quit. I'd like to take some of those throws back [he was intercepted three times in the game]. We were just trying to make plays.
"It was nice having a week to prepare. I knew the scheme well, I was seeing the game well, getting through my progressions and just reading the game. We just couldn't get over the hump and establish drives."
Saleh summed it up when he said: "Never got a chance to get anything going and dig into the play-caller's bag of tricks."