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Jets takeaways from Sunday's 20-17 loss to Lions, including Zach Wilson's inconsistency and defense's late breakdown

Dec 18, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half at MetLife Stadium.

Dec 18, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) throws a pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half at MetLife Stadium. / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets were one play away from 8-6, but Jared Goff’s 50-yard fourth down touchdown pass with less than two minutes remaining broke their fans’ hearts and wrecked a spirited late-game fight back.

In his return to action, Zach Wilson passed for 317 yards and two scores, but also had a crucial interception. Wilson had driven the Jets downfield for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:41 to go, but the Lions marched downfield and scored on their next drive to recapture the lead.

The Jets tried valiantly to get back into range to send the game into overtime, but Greg Zuerlein’s 58-yard field goal attempt as time expired sailed wide, dropping them to 7-7 on the season.

Here are the key takeaways…

The game began ominously as the Lions – who have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past several weeks – marched downfield all the way to the goal line, running eight minutes off the clock. The Jets came up big on fourth and goal though, as Quincy Williams, Will Parks and CJ Mosley combined to stuff the run.

Their relief was short-lived though, as starting from inside his own 2-yard line wasn’t exactly the ideal situation for Wilson to see in the first series of his return to action. After the inevitable three-and-out, ex-Jet Kalif Raymond returned the ensuing punt for a touchdown to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

Wilson’s next series was a three-and-out as well, as the Lions did a good job of taking the crowd out of the game early. Wilson ended the first quarter with just two completions and running back Zonovan Knight had just three yards on five carries in the quarter, with the Lions regularly putting eight men in the box.

Wilson got going in the second quarter though, as he rolled right and hit Garrett Wilson for 33 yards and then rolled left and connected with CJ Uzomah on a 40-yard touchdown pass. The coaching staff deserves credit for dialing up some plays that Wilson was comfortable with to give him some much-needed confidence.

After another time-consuming drive allowed the Lions to take a 10-7 lead, Wilson was indecisive on a couple of plays – an intentional grounding call and a sack – that pushed the Jets out of field goal range. He would later take two costly sacks on the last drive of the game.

With Denzel Mims suffering an early concussion on Wilson’s first completion of the day, Jeff Smith was called upon to contribute more and delivered with three catches for 73 yards in the first half, including a deep catch that set up Zuerlein for the game-tying field goal just before halftime. Smith was only active because Corey Davis was himself inactive with a concussion.

Star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams was ruled out before the game, which was a big blow for a Jets defense facing one of the league’s better offensive lines. Goff had plenty of time to survey the field on a lot of plays, but the Jets were able to disrupt some of Goff’s passes when they were able to get to him. They didn’t have a sack or turnover but battled well to keep the game close enough for the Jets to take the late lead.

After one of his better first-half performances, Wilson’s first series of the second half saw him make the same kind of mistake that saw him benched in the first place. Jerry Jacobs intercepted a downfield throw and returned it deep into Jets’ territory to set up the go-ahead field goal as Wilson misread the coverage and stared down his target.

Wilson bounced back in the fourth quarter, breaking out of a mini-slump with a downfield completion to Garrett Wilson and finding Uzomah for his second touchdown of the game on third-and-goal at the 1.

Just when the Jets needed their defense to step up for them, they had a major breakdown as Brock Wright caught a short pass on fourth-and-inches from midfield and took it the distance to give the Lions the lead with 1:49 to go.

The Jets battled to get the ball into field-goal range late, but Wilson took two sacks on the drive to make it an uphill climb. He was able to convert on third-and-19 and fourth-and-18 to get the Jets close enough for Zuerlein to attempt a 58-yarder as time expired, but it was well wide.


What’s next

The Jets have a short week as they’ll host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. The Jags (6-8) enter with momentum after a 40-34 overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys (10-4) Sunday.



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