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'Student' Zach Wilson Shows 'Teacher' Aaron Rodgers a Few Tricks in Jets' Win

QB's Passing Line Was Modest but He Directed Green & White to 24 Points, 198 Yards in 2nd Half at Green Bay


It was a touching tableau on the crowded Lambeau Field sidelines, with Zach Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, heads down, sharing words of greeting and reassurance. You could almost hear Rodgers giving Wilson advice about hanging in there, things will get better, plenty of great plays and games still ahead.

Except, of course, it was Wilson offering Rodgers perhaps a little encouragement and kind words after the Zach Attack Jets, following some of their script vs. the Dolphins, put together another superb second half to pull away from Rodgers and the Packers, 27-10.

"Yeah, it's crazy for me because this guy's been my idol since I was 8 years old," Wilson said after leading the Jets' advance to 4-2 overall, a 3-0 road record, one more touchdown drive before his fourth-quarter TD streak came to an end at seven drives, and a 5-3 record for the Jets at the house that Curly Lambeau built and Vince Lombardi renovated into the shrine in the middle of suburban Wisconsin. "I copied everything, tried to be just like him. As ugly a game as that was, he's a great guy, someone I've always studied through the NFL, somebody to be like."

But like a latter-day Karate Kid, Wilson, who wears a sweatband like a Ninja warrior at times, was the bright-faced seito showing the bearded sensei a few winning moves. Wilson improved his starting record this season to 3-0, and he did it without a super-sharp passing game against Green Bay's difficult, highly ranked secondary. Wilson completed just 10 of 18 passes for 110 yards and no TDs.

Yet he protected the ball to the tune of no giveaways for the second straight game, and he still hit several invaluable passes, none more so than underthrown 41-yard strike to WR Corey Davis that set the stage for Braxton Berrios' 20-yard end-around and a 10-3 lead midway through the third quarter that the Jets never lost.

But Wilson also had everything in balance and working remarkably well after Rodgers, the Lambeau crowd and an unexpected Green Bay rain put a damper on the Jets' 3-3 first half during which they gained 80 yards and didn't convert a third down.

"That's just NFL football, man," Wilson said of the offense's unexceptional first half. "It doesn't always work out. You've just got to keep going, keep grinding. We got the running game going in the second half and that was huge."

In the second half, rookie RB Breece Hall turned on the jets for the second consecutive game with 116 rushing yards, including his 34-yard mad-dash TD to make it 24-10, plus 5 more yards on two receptions. With Michael Carter adding a 25-yard run to set up their final score on a Greg Zuerlein field goal, the Jets finished with a season-high 179 rushing yards

"We knew they'd come out with their backs against the wall at home, they'd come out punching," head coach Robert Saleh of the second-half run game (during a rare postgame news conference in which he wasn't asked about and didn't mention the name of his quarterback once). "For us, it wasn't a mindset to weather the storm or anything. It was just to keep fighting back and leaning on them. The longer we went, we felt the more pressure would be on them. Credit them for the way they came out, and credit our offense and special teams for the way they came out and generated explosive play after explosive play.

"It was a big, big, big deal for the offense and special teams."

See the best images from the victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Meanwhile, Wilson declined to make it a big, big, big deal for himself, even though he was the first Jets QB to beat a Packers team led by Rodgers after they lost all three to the uncanny signal-caller, who beat the Green & White in 2010 without a touchdown, 9-0, in '14 at Lambeau in a 31-24 comeback, and in '18 back at MetLife in a 44-38 OT shootout.

"You can just see the fight all the way around," Wilson said of the final 30 minutes of bounceback ball, "what Coach Saleh preaches, the culture he's bringing, the guys fighting till the last snap. I think that's probably where that comes from.

"But the season's still so long. We can't feel like we've arrived. We've got to keep going. We've got to learn from these wins, we've got to throw the ball better. We've got to be dominant, be able to throw the ball and run the ball and help those guys up front. So there are good things to learn from."

As for their exchange at the end of the game, the exact nature of the messages will remain confidential. But as Wilson summed it up: "Sharing that moment was great. I wish I could still sit there and chat with him, but it was a cool moment."

No doubt just a little cooler in the cold drizzle of Green Bay for the seito in green and white than for the sensei in green and gold.

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