Zach Wilson may have been cool, calm and collected as he led the Jets on two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh last week. But what else could the Jets' second-year QB do when he was watching his running game — and his passing game to one of his backs — purring along with demon-dashing efficiency?
He could talk about his running backs.
"Breece Hall is huge for us," Wilson began in his postgame assessment of the Jets' 40-17 going-away victory over the Dolphins at MetLife. "Then with Michael Carter, they're very different backs, we use them for different things. Breece had a great day breaking tackles, never letting the first one hang on. He got open in the pass game, he's hard to bring down in space, and he's got great hands, too. So I'm excited for his future with us.
"I'm sitting there kind of watching. I've got the best view in the back. Those guys are doing a great job."
It wasn't as if the Jets were impersonating the Monsters of the Midway or Oklahoma's Split T or Wishbone. The Green & White ran for a season-high but still modest 135 yards on 33 carries vs. the Dolphins.
But what jumped out was the five touchdowns, all on rushing plays. The first and third were by Carter, the fourth by 197-scrimmage-yards rookie monster Hall, and the fifth on a Braxton Berrios end-around. Even Wilson contributed with his third-and-goal 5-yard scramble and launch for the goal line that opened the Jets' second-quarter lead to 19-7. It was the third time the Jets ran for five-plus TDs in a game in their history, the first time since 1992.
But it will always be, a little or a lot, about how Wilson fares passing the ball and protecting the ball. He did both very well in this downward-trends-shattering victory.
"I thought Zach was good," head coach Robert Saleh said. "We didn't turn the ball over. I thought he made big throws when he needed to make them. I thought our running game picked up, especially in the second quarter. I thought he did what he needed to do to win a football game."
For the afternoon, Wilson completed 14 of 21 passes for 210 yards, no touchdowns but as Saleh noted, no interceptions or strip sacks. In his 15th start as the Jets QB, that 66.7% accuracy was his best in a game. His 79-yard completion, the long catch-and-run to Hall on the last play of the first quarter to set up the Jets' first TD for a 12-0 lead, was also a career long.
"That's what you put the play in for. You hope it's going to look like that," Wilson said. "They were in man and just kind of lost him there. It was great execution up front. And you can see how fast he is once he gets into space. I'm excited, when I see him get that much room, that he's going to be running for a while."
That's almost what happened. The play and it was the second-longest reception by a Jets back in franchise history, trailing only the Vinny Testaverde-to-Leon Johnson screen pass that morphed into an 82-yard TD in a route of Indianapolis and then-rookie Peyton Manning in 1998.
See the best images from the 40-17 victory over the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
But as comfy and rewarding as this game was, Wilson is a savvy veteran when it comes to knowing what has to be done in the coming weeks, games in which he may have to throw a lot more and a lot further with just as few giveaways and mistakes to secure the next victory. Such as at Green Bay next Sunday, where the Packers, crying in their Guinness after their loss to the Giants in London, will be waiting.
The QB said it's not about looking back at the 0-12 AFC East losing streak his team just obliterated in its first division win in three years but rather savoring the 1-0 record in the division for a night and then getting back to the proverbial chopping and stacking in practice.
"That was huge," Wilson acknowledged of ending that division slump. "But we don't really look at the streak. I wasn't here for a lot of those games. It doesn't have a lot to do with a lot of guys in this room. We're here building this.
"The vibe in this locker room is that this winning thing is expected," Wilson told Jets play-by-play broadcaster Bob Wischusen, "That needs to be the thing every single week. We come in here, we expect to win. We're going to keep getting better, we're going to keep learning from these wins. It's going to be an exciting year. But we've got to keep going."
And whether by ground or by air, it doesn't much matter. Zach's on board with both.