Zach Wilson plays well, Jets fight to come back, and it's still not enough to beat Chiefs

Zach Wilson had some promising moments in what might've been the best game of his career. The New York Jets had a fantastic effort against the Kansas City Chiefs, keeping a Sunday night audience engaged until the end.

Yet it was another loss for the Jets.

They're 1-3 after losing 23-20 to the Chiefs. All of the positives are fine, and every single thing Wilson did well was met with a mountain of praise on the NBC broadcast. Perhaps it was a turning point and the Jets will start winning games against competition that isn't as good as the reigning Super Bowl champs.

But it was a monumental effort just to lose. That's the problem for the Jets this season. There's no margin for error. Wilson played well. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had a strange off-night. It was all right there for the Jets to pull off a big upset. And they still couldn't get it done.

It felt like a lot of their close calls from last season. Don't tell the Jets it was a moral victory because those don't exist for 1-3 teams that came into the season with Super Bowl dreams.

Jets overcome a rough start

The Chiefs were up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter. It seemed like the only intrigue would be how many times NBC could show Taylor Swift over the course of a three-hour game.

The Jets saved America an overdose of Swift by making it a game. Out of nowhere, Wilson started making plays. It was probably the best stretch of his three-year career. He was hitting back-shoulder throws and passing in rhythm. He made a very nice play running it into the end zone on a two-point conversion to tie the game 20-20. That came after his second touchdown pass of the night. The stats, right after the Jets forced a three-and-out after the offense tied the game 20-20, and this was not a typo:

Wilson: 23-of-31, 216 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 114.4 rating

Mahomes: 8-of-17, 135 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 54.4 rating

A national television audience was watching Wilson outplay Mahomes. Just when you think you have the NFL figured out, something like that happens.

A lot of people might've turned the game off at 17-0, and they would've missed the Jets making it a really competitive game.

Zach Wilson and the New York Jets lost a close game to the Chiefs on Sunday night. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Zach Wilson and the New York Jets lost a close game to the Chiefs on Sunday night. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Chiefs take lead in 4th quarter

Two good quarters from Wilson isn't enough to beat the Chiefs. Eventually, even on a bad night, Mahomes is going to put pressure on you.

Mahomes got a drive going, and it ended with a Chiefs field goal. Kansas City led 23-20. The Jets needed to answer, and then the offense made its first big mistake. Wilson dropped a fairly good shotgun snap. It looked like he was starting his dropback too quickly, and the snap went off his hands. The Chiefs recovered with 7:24 left at about midfield.

New York Jets Robert Saleh shouts at an official during the second half an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Oct. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, NJ. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Robert Saleh had beef with the officials toward the end of the Jets-Chiefs game. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

Mahomes hadn't played well to that point. He lofted two interceptions right to Jets defenders. If Wilson made those plays, social media would've imploded ripping him. But Mahomes also has the knack for coming up with a big play right when the game is in the balance. On a third-and-22 after the fumble recovery, the Jets got no pass rush, and eventually Mahomes ran straight ahead for 24 yards. That was a gut punch for the Jets. So was a defensive holding that wiped out what would've been another terrible interception by Mahomes. The Jets were not pleased with the call on Sauce Gardner, which was triggered by minimal contact. Head coach Robert Saleh screamed at the officials.

But the Chiefs kept the drive alive. They kept grinding down the clock. Then Mahomes put the game away just after the two-minute warning with a third-down run that picked up another first down, sliding down just before the end zone. That meant the Jets wouldn't get the ball back.

There were things to build on, particularly the hot stretch from Wilson that was far better than most of his NFL career to this point. But the Jets need wins — and not the moral kind.