Lesson Three in the education of Zach Wilson and the Jets offense continued at Denver on Sunday, and it didn't look as if the higher education was getting easier.
"Frustrating," said Wilson when asked how he would put into words the Jets' 26-0 shutout loss to the Broncos. "I think the lack of execution, I'd say we're all learning, we're trying to get better every single week. It may be hard for people to see that, but we're learning a lot in those games. People are going to hate, it is what it is, but we've got to keep that confidence, get in there Monday and just be hungry, keep trying to get that win."
"I wouldn't call it regression," first-year head coach Robert Saleh said as his Jets fell to 0-3. "It's a fair question, to the naked eye. We played three really good football teams. Carolina was undefeated, Denver was undefeated, all three of them have top-flight defenses. So this has been a rough indoctrination for the quarterback and the offense."
Wilson, Saleh and the Jets tried to put some positive spins on Sunday's 60-minute class, but at the same time, as Saleh said, "I don't want to sugarcoat anything," and Wilson said, "It's a tough situation for us right now."
Here were some of the painful bullet points for the offense a mile high during Denver's home opener:
■ The Jets' point production fell from 14 points at Carolina to six vs. New England to zero at Denver. It was the 30th shutout loss in franchise history and the third in the last 17 seasons at Denver alone.
■ The yardage dipped from a season high of 336 yards vs. the Patriots to a season low of 162 yards against Broncos HC Vic Fangio's defensive scheme. Wilson completed 19 of 35 passes for 160 yards, threw two late interceptions and was sacked five times and hit in the pocket nine times. The ground attack gained 43 yards on 13 carries.
■ The closest the Jets got to the Broncos goal line was the Denver 25 at the start of the fourth quarter. The offense had no red zone series and 11 first downs.
Wilson said there was a shining moment for his unit in the first half, when it was still possible for the Jets to make a game of it. The possession lasted 12 offensive plays, moved a modest 32 yards but took a season-high 7:03 off the clock, largely on the strength of Wilson's short passing game in which he completed seven of nine throws. Matt Ammendola's 56-yard field goal in the thin air of the Rockies was nullified by a delay of game and the Jets, instead of trailing 10-3, punted.
"The whole game on offense was disappointing, of course. We want to do better than that," Wilson said. "But I did think we did some good things on that drive. What happened at the end of that drive just shows what was happening the whole game — it's us killing ourselves. It really comes down to that. ... We just didn't execute. I promise we're going to get it. These guys want to win, man, I promise they do, so we're going to give everything we have every single week."
Saleh said the showing was frustrating perhaps especially because of the week of practice Wilson had just put in.
"He had his best week of practice, he really did," the coach said, "in terms of eye placement, footwork in the pocket, stepping up and climbing in the pocket, going through his reads — one-two — and being very deliberate in the way he worked. He's just got to stick to that, he's just got to trust his process, trust his week of preparation and bring it to the field and execute at that level."
See Best Images from the Week 3 Matchup in Denver
Everyone pitching in refers to the number of ups and downs during the game that were not in the young QB's control, in particular dropped passes that cost the visitors even more momentum and scoring opportunities. Penalties were also a problem but not really on offense as the O lost only 8 yards on rookie G Alijah Vera-Tucker being illegally downfield on a pass. The defense was hit with six penalties (four accepted) and the special teams with three.
But Wilson was not about to call out anyone for stone hands or yellow-flag violations.
"You just give 'em some love, man," he said. "These guys are busting their butt out there, and not every throw is perfect — for sure, it's not. I've got to be more accurate and give these guys some good throws. It's tough and it just goes back to football is a team game and it's not on one person. There's definitely plays individuals can make, especially myself, but it all goes back to the team functioning and all 11 guys doing their job."
It figures to continue to be an up-and-down ride, with next week's home game against the 2-1 Titans, then the London game against the Falcons, who topped the Giants on the road, and at New England. But neither the QB nor the HC nor anyone else on the Green & White were throwing in any towels.
"I understand the adversity we're going through and I expected that," Wilson said, setting his jaw and perhaps already looking ahead to this next week of practice for the Titans. "Nothing's going to be perfect, but I've just got to keep tight with my brothers in the locker room and just keep finding how I can get better, watch the tape and just keep trying to do the best I can every single play."