Jets takeaways from 27-24 win over Titans, including overtime magic from Zach Wilson

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Michael Carter celebrates touchdown with Morgan Moses
Michael Carter celebrates touchdown with Morgan Moses

In the first signs of life for these Baby Jets, they pulled out a remarkable, 27-24 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, behind a coming-out-party performance for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The 22-year-old quarterback completed 21-of-34 passes for 297 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. And that included a remarkable, 53-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis midway through the fourth quarter to give the Jets the lead.

Yeah, OK, they still needed Titans kicker Randy Bullock to push a potential game-tying field goal to the left in the final minute, but don’t sweat the details. The Jets won.

And they looked good doing it, too.

And it wasn’t just Wilson. He got help from an impressive performance by the Jets’ young, battered defense, which bent against Titans running back Derrick Henry (33 carries, 157 yards, one touchdown) but absolutely refused to break. And they kept the heat on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill all game long, sacking him seven times.

Wilson actually needed that help since the Jets’ offense got off to another slow start. But it really started moving late in the third quarter. Wilson was dazzling with some of his famed “off-schedule” throws and they even unleashed his arm with a bunch of deep passes, too.

The first was a 54-yarder to Keelan Cole, when he ran out of trouble, rolled right, and found Cole wide open at the Titans 14-yard line late in the third quarter. That led to a field goal that gave the Jets their first lead of the year.

The best, though, was his touchdown pass to Davis – Wilson’s second touchdown pass of the fourth quarter. He rolled to his right, had Davis somewhat open around the Titans’ 30, but Wilson instead waved at his receiver to take off down the field. So Davis did and Wilson fired a perfect pass to Davis right through the coverage and into the end zone, so the Jets could retake the lead.

By then, everything was working right for the Jets. The offensive line was giving Wilson just enough time and his receivers weren’t dropping balls anymore. And the Jets’ defense – which started to look like it was wearing down against Henry – got a little tougher, too.

That Jets defense was outstanding, considering how many veterans they’ve lost to injury so far this year. Yes it helped that the Titans were without their top two receivers – A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. But Henry is still a load to stop, even if he was the only reliable weapon the Titans had.

Yes, the defense did give up that late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that sent the game to overtime. And yes, Wilson took a bad “sack” when he was forced out of bounds in overtime as he tried to roll right on a 3rd and goal from the 1 – turning a possible game-winning touchdown into what eventually became a game-winning, 22-yard Matt Amendola field goal.

But seriously, don’t sweat the details because they aren’t as relevant as the big picture. After an ugly, 0-3 start, new head coach Robert Saleh, Wilson and this entire Jets team desperately needed something to feel good about. They needed something to prove to themselves they were headed in the right direction.

After all, that’s what this season is about: Making progress, and maybe stealing a few wins along the way. On Sunday, they showed they were capable of that. For the first time in a few years, really, they showed everyone that their future really could be bright.

Here are some more takeaways from the Jets’ first win of the year:

- The Jets were bringing the heat on defense for the first time this season and it paid off with those seven sacks, including two from linebackers (Quincy Williams, C.J. Mosley) and a half-sack from CB Bryce Hall. And they got two from Quinnen Williams, who had his finest game of the season. Yes, their job was a little easier since Tannehill was operating without those two receivers, but it doesn’t really matter. The Jets need to generate a pass rush to be successful at all this season, and to help out a very, very young defense.

- The Jets’ young secondary was pretty good too in its first game without injured safety Marcus Maye. And again, it helped that Brown and Jones were out, but they were still good. Their best play came from Hall who broke up a perfectly thrown, 50-yard pass from Tannehill to Josh Reynolds in the third quarter. He was stride for stride down the field and timed his leap perfectly. Tannehill threw for 298 yards, but he needed an extra period and 49 passes to do it.

- The linebackers were just phenomenal in this game. Mosley had 13 tackles and a sack and Quincy Williams, who has been a heck of a pickup for Jets GM Joe Douglas, had 12 tackles and a sack. Between Quincy and Quinnen, the two Williams brothers, they had a combined 19 tackles and three sacks.

Davis had four catches for 111 yards and that great touchdown catch, which wasn’t his only terrific catch of the game. That’s great, obviously. He looked like a No. 1 receiver for most of the game. But it didn’t start out that way. The first two times he was targeted on Sunday resulted in a drop and an interception. On the drop, Wilson threw the ball a little behind him, but still on his hands. A tough catch? Sure. But a No. 1 receiver has to make it. On the next, he slipped on his route just as he cut back inside, hanging Wilson out to dry and leading to an easy interception. A No. 1 receiver just can’t do those things as often as Davis has done them this season. Maybe the second half was a turning point for him.

- The Jets didn’t generate much of a running game (66 yards), but RB Michael Carter (13 carries, 38 yards, one touchdown) had a few impressive runs. He shows some great instincts and cutting ability. He also showed some serious power on his two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter (though he got a lot of help from his big friends along the offensive line after he was stopped at the 1.

- The Jets’ offensive line was … better. They only allowed one sack and Wilson wasn’t hit much, though a lot of that was because he was able to use his own legs to get out of trouble. The Titans’ pass rush still got through a little too often. And as noted above, there weren’t a lot of holes for the Jets’ running backs to get through.

- First boos of the game for the Jets came on their second drive, when they had a 3rd and 14 from their own 34 and they ran … a draw, to running back Ty Johnson, that went for 1 yard. It’s hard to know if that was the play call from offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur or Wilson simply checked out of a pass based on the defense. Regardless, what a pointless call. The fans were right to boo. In a season that’s all about Wilson’s development, how about letting him see what he can do in a spot like that? A draw was never going to work.

- It’s hard to fault the defense for much in this game, but … Saleh specifically talked this week about defending the screen better. So what happens? The Titans, on their fifth play of the game, run a screen pass on 3rd and 21 from their own 43 … and they pick up 27 yards! Tannehill hit running back Jeremy McNichols and Quincy Williams and safety Adrian Colbert took bad angles, and that was that. Tannehill and McNichols connected on a 23-yard screen pass in the third quarter, too. On the bright side, Quincy Williams snuffed out a big one in overtime, so consider it a lesson learned.

- Saleh on Friday: WR Denzel Mims “is going to get some opportunities.” Mims on Sunday: No targets at all.

- When Ammendola kicked a 27-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the third quarter, the Jets took a 10-9 lead – their first lead of the entire season, after 224 minutes and 41 seconds of football. Wow.