“We know we have to win out.”
Those were the words of Jets coach Robert Saleh after the Jets gut-wrenching 20-17 loss to the Lions.
Two months ago, following a win against the Broncos, the Jets were flying high as they were 5-2 and it appeared like the playoffs were only a formality. That seemed like a lifetime ago as the Jets have won only two games since Halloween.
Sunday was the third consecutive loss for the Jets as they dropped to 7-7. Coming into the game against Detroit, Gang Green was “in the hunt category” as they lost tiebreakers to both the Patriots and the Chargers, who had the same record as them.
Now the Jets understand the task at hand during the final three games of the season.
“Sense of urgency is definitely high,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “We are not idiots, we understand the way things shake out as far as the playoff standings and different things like that go.
“We understand that these three games are extremely crucial going forward. But we have to worry about one at a time. We will review this one, we will get this one corrected and short week on to Jacksonville.
“We gotta be able to get a win at home on Thursday.”
The biggest common denominator during the Jets’ slump is their inability to score points. That certainly reared its ugly once again against the Lions.
Zach Wilson, who started for Mike White because of his rib injury and was bench month ago following a loss to the Patriots, had his ups and downs. He completed 18 of 35 passes for 317 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Judging by his numbers, Wilson played well enough for the Jets to win the game.
However, it was a tale of two halves for Wilson as he threw 8 of 14 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown in the first 30 minutes. But after halftime, Wilson’s inconsistent play returned as he was 10 of 21 for 132 yards, one touchdown and an interception during the second half. The Jets rushing attack did him no favors, as they gained only 50 yards on the ground.
Part of what got Wilson benched in the first place was his erratic play and inaccurate throws to receivers, and that indeed continued to be the case for most of the second half. Wilson did help lead the Jets into field goal range as his 20-yard pass to Elijah Moore helped set up a game-tying field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein, but he missed from 58 yards.
It wasn’t all Wilson’s fault as he didn’t let up a 51-yard touchdown to Brock Wright to give the Lions the game-winning victory. But as the saying goes, the quarterback usually gets all the praise or blame.
Following the game, Saleh wouldn’t say if Wilson would start Thursday’s game against the Jaguars.
“That’s not up to me,” Wilson said when asked if he deserved another start. “For me, it comes back to how can I watch this film, how can I improve and can I keep putting our offense in the best situation to win and I didn’t do that today certainly.
“I think the way we look at it as an offense, we are going to go back and watch each individual play and we are going to judge each play on how it went. There was good, but there was bad, but there’s a lot to learn from.
“I got a lot of plays I want back. Until I can correct those, I gotta keep learning and just trying to improve.”
Now the Jets have made their bed after losing five of their last seven games. But there’s still a chance for the team to make the playoffs.
The task won’t be easy as the Jets might have to win their remaining three games to qualify for the postseason. The Jets lose tiebreakers to the Patriots and Chargers and because of that, they likely have to finish with more wins than the two teams and the only way to ensure that is to win 10 games.
The Jets will host the Jaguars (6-8) on Thursday, who are also suddenly back into the playoff race as they upset the Cowboys 40-34 in overtime at home. Then Gang Green will travel on the road to play the Seahawks (7-7) and the Dolphins (8-6) to close out the 2022 season.
All of those teams are still very much in the playoff picture. Another loss in any one of those three games, the Jets can likely start planning for vacation plans following Jan. 8.
The theme of this season has been missed opportunities for the Jets as they’ve let games against the Patriots, Vikings, and Bills all slip away. Sunday was another example of how they failed to put another opponent away.
“This game was a playoff game,” Jets cornerback D.J. Reed said about the loss to the Lions. “We didn’t want it to be in anybody’s hands or if such and such wins or if such and such loses, we was like s— just win out, win out, we don’t have a problem.
“Obviously, the metrics are going to play a part in that, and it is what it is. All we can do is take it one game at a time, short week, we gotta get ready for Jacksonville and focus on that.”