Joe Flacco gave it everything he had.
He stayed cool in the pocket as the Miami Dolphins' defense blitzed more than 50% of the time. He hit on 24-of-39 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. He converted a fourth-down play with a scoring pass to wide receiver Jamison Crowder.
Ultimately, Flacco, 36, and the Jets (2-8) ran out of opportunities and ran out of time and made too many mistakes in a 24-17 loss to Miami (4-7) at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
"The offense, as a whole, did some good things," Flacco said. "But there were too many mistakes to win a football game."
Coming into the game, Flacco, who was acquired by the Jets in a trade with the Eagles, had not started since playing for the Green & White in five games last season. With Zach Wilson out injured (he missed his fourth game with a PCL sprain in his right knee) and Mike White (4 INTs against Buffalo last week) returning to his backup role, head coach Robert Saleh gave the start to the 14-year NFL veteran known as Joe Cool for his calm under pressure.
"He did what we all expected him to do -- he settled the offense," Saleh said after the game. "He faced a lot of pressure, he got hit a few times, got the ball where it needed to go. He did a good job out there."
In addition to the TD pass to Crowder, Flacco found TE Ryan Griffin as he slipped across the line and grabbed a pass that went for 29 yards early in the second quarter and also collaborated with FB Nick Bawden, a practice squad call-up on Saturday, for a 20-yard gain, also in the second quarter.
There were too many drives, however, that Flacco said sputtered to an unsatisfying end: A second-quarter fumble when Byron Jones came off the edge unblocked and hit the QB with the Jets at the Miami 5-yard line and the scored tied, 7-7; two missed field goals; missed assignments; and an intentional-grounding call against Flacco with the Jets at the Miami 12, trailing by 14-7, which forced the Green & White to attempt a field goal (this one converted by Matt Ammendola).
On the crucial fumble, which Miami recovered, Saleh said: "He [Jones] should have been accounted for. I won't say by who. Joe knows he should have been accounted for."
"I think they got to us a couple of times, but a lot of them I was able to get the balls out," Flacco said. "I got hit while I was doing it. Overall, we handled it pretty well, on a percentage basis. But there are those that end up biting you in butt, like the fumble."
Miscues aside, Flacco got the Jets even, at 14-14, late in the third quarter when he connected with rookie WR Elijah Moore (11 targets, 8 receptions for 141 yards and a TD) on a 62-yard scoring play -- the Jets' longest play of the 2021 NFL season.
"They came up and showed Cover 0, but I could tell they weren't bringing it on that one," Flacco said. "In the beginning [of the game] it might have looked confusing, but on this one, I dropped back, told myself to stay patient and just make a good throw."
See Best Images from the Game at MetLife Stadium
Moore left CB Byron Jones in the dust as he rumbled into the end zone.
After the game, Saleh said it was too early to declare who would start next week's game at Houston.
"He worked out well this morning," Saleh said of Wilson. "We'll feel him out over the next two days to see where he's at mentally and physically."
After the game, Flacco said all the right things, complimenting Wilson and his approach, but also putting his competitive nature on display.
"Every time I take the field I want to play my best and put my team in position to win the football game," he said. "We didn't get it done today. I will continue to do that until I'm told I'm not going to do that. I'm going to have fun, sling it around and have fun with the guys."
Wilson's day is coming, perhaps as early as next week.
"I haven't gotten a chance to see much of Zach, but the ball jumps out of his hand," Flacco said. "He's eager to learn and seems eager to learn and as much as he can about this game, how to play, how to stay in rhythm and able to use the other things he does well. He's super interested and will work hard.
"I told a couple of guys, as soon as we get together he's got a million questions. It's all good. It's a lot of fun to see someone just coming into the league who I'm able to talk to. I don't have all the answers. It's football at the end of day. It's cool to be around the room and be around as many football players as I can. I can tell he [Wilson] loves it, when you get him one-on-one you can see it."