Jets support Zach Wilson after loss to Cowboys, but where was the on-field help?

ARLINGTON, Texas — When New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson walked off the podium and into the locker room at AT&T Stadium, five of his teammates surrounded him. Garrett Wilson put his arm around the quarterback. As Wilson walked away, Tyler Conklin shouted to him:

“We can all see, it’s not the same.”

That was most of the noise coming out of the Jets locker room on Sunday night. Yes, they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 30-10. Yes, Zach Wilson threw three interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes. No, the Jets don’t currently look like a team that can seriously compete with the real Super Bowl contenders of the NFL, like the Cowboys. Not when the offense plays like it did, and certainly not when the defense does.

But at least Wilson is not like he was a year ago, and that’s the truth. His numbers on Sunday don’t tell the full story — 12 of 27, 170 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 38.1 passer rating — and he was far from the Jets’ biggest disaster against the Cowboys. But perhaps that’s part of the problem: Even if Wilson isn’t terrible, he needs near perfection around him if the Jets are going to beat quality opponents. The Wilson formula works when the running game and defense are at their best — and when the offensive line gives him even a little bit of room to breathe. That all worked against the Buffalo Bills last week, even after Aaron Rodgers went down.

None of it did on Sunday.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed his first 13 passes in a row. Dallas’ first two scoring drives killed 12 minutes, 25 seconds of game clock as the Cowboys gained 153 yards on 26 plays and went up 10-0 early in the second quarter. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb toasted the Jets secondary all night, getting 11 catches for 143 yards. Cornerback Sauce Gardner dropped a sure-fire interception — that might’ve gone for a touchdown — with 5:47 left in the second quarter.

“I gotta make the plays because I’m not getting too many opportunities to get the ball, so the ones I get I do gotta make the play,” said Gardner, who deleted his Twitter account after the game. “The pick that I dropped, I was thinking about scoring more than catching the ball.”

The drive continued. On third-and-7 on the Jets 11, defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers was called for a questionable roughing the passer penalty. On third-and-13 at the 13, cornerback Brandin Echols was called for pass interference. The Cowboys eventually scored on a short touchdown pass, successfully scored on the two-point conversion and went up 18-7. The Jets never really recovered from that, even as Zach Wilson charged the offense up the field on an impressive drive to end the half, get a field goal and made it 18-10. It never got better. The Cowboys converted 9 of 18 third downs, and the Jets defense allowed 30 points for the first time since Week 2 last year.

“It was humbling,” cornerback D.J. Reed said. “I feel like we (the defense) actually needed this, especially early on in the season. … I think this was actually good for us, a blessing in disguise.”

The offensive line did Wilson no favors, and the running game was practically nonexistent, much to the chagrin of star running back Breece Hall. Last week, Hall ran for 127 yards on 10 carries in his first game back after tearing his ACL in 2022. This week: Hall carried the ball only four times for 9 yards. Wilson scrambled for 36 yards, safety Ashtyn Davis rushed for 4 on a first-half fake punt play — and the rest of the rushing attack consisted of 24 yards on 10 carries, with a crippling third-quarter fumble from Dalvin Cook.

“I mean, I only had four touches,” Hall said. “That’s why we struggled. It is what it is. I think we just got down early today and just abandoned the run, so I feel like with any team, that type of stuff happens. That’s just how it is. You feel like you have to get back in the game and then it just slips away.”

Hall is on a “pitch count,” Jets coach Robert Saleh has said, but he still got the ball less than he would’ve liked in Week 2.

“I can do something with it whenever I touch it,” Hall said. “They have a good D-line, our O-line had their hands full and we just didn’t get going today. We abandoned the run early, so that’s just what it was.”

Saleh doesn’t call plays — that’s offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s job — but he admitted he was “disappointed” with the run blocking. But the offensive line wasn’t especially good at pass-blocking Sunday, either.



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The offensive line certainly had their hands full, especially 38-year-old left tackle Duane Brown, who was the one mostly tasked with trying to block superstar edge rusher Micah Parsons. Suffice to say, it didn’t go well. According to TruMedia, Parsons finished with six pressures, four hits, three hurries and two sacks. The Jets’ offensive line as a whole allowed 13 pressures, 12 hurries, two hits and two sacks — both allowed by center Connor McGovern. If it seemed like Wilson was running for his life most of the night, that’s because he was. He completed only 4 of 10 passes when pressured, per TruMedia.

“We’ve gotta be better up front,” Brown said. “We’ve gotta be better.”

Add all that up, and it’s easy to see why Wilson’s teammates rallied around him after the game. In the second quarter, Wilson hit Garrett Wilson on a slant on a nice pass, and the wide receiver took it the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown.

Just before halftime, Wilson completed 4 of 5 passes for 20 yards and ran for another 33 on scrambles to put the Jets in field-goal range. That fifth pass, the incompletion, might’ve been a touchdown to a wide-open Garrett Wilson if Wilson’s arm hadn’t been hit when he was throwing it.

“I was so frustrated. We called a great play,” Zach Wilson said. “It’s unfortunate because in games like that, those are the ones you need to connect on.”

The Jets went three-and-out on their first drive in the second half, and then Cook fumbled it away on their next possession. By the time Wilson took the field for his third drive with 5:19 left, the Jets were trailing 24-10 and Wilson was promptly sacked. On his next drive, it was 27-10, and Wilson — while trying to evade pressure — made a poor decision throwing on the move to the middle of the field, and his pass was easily intercepted. But at that point, he was just trying to make something happen, the Jets in desperation mode. His second and third interceptions were similar desperation heaves.



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Nobody blamed him for those. Last year, teammates sometimes had a hard time biting their tongue when Wilson struggled. This time, they ardently defended his play.

“I think the big thing is, at the end of that game, you’re going to look and people say: Three picks, right? I really think it’s just: We’re down 30-10, we’re in a bad situation, we’re trying to fight and make something happen,” Conklin said. “I think the whole game you see that Zach is a completely different player, in my opinion. … We’re here for him, we appreciate him, we love him and I think that’s really what it comes down to, we got his back no matter what.”

Hall said the last two interceptions “weren’t on him. He was just trying to make a play, trying to get something going.”

Reed thought Wilson did a “great job controlling and managing the game, but as a defense we’ve gotta help him out and be much better than that.”

Brown admitted the offensive line needed to do a better job. “We have to give him a chance to sit comfortably in the pocket and make plays,” he said. “Zach is going to be fine.”

Garrett Wilson spent the most time talking to Wilson after the game. The wide receiver was someone who didn’t hide his frustration when the quarterback was at his worst in 2022.

“This is a grown man league and Zach is exactly that,” Garrett Wilson said. “He knows how to handle both sides of it. Just talking to him for the last 10 to 15 minutes, I can tell he’s taking the right steps. We’re going to learn from this. We come down here and we would’ve loved to leave with a W, and we didn’t, and that sucks. But we gotta leave with something and we feel like we’re going to be better because of this.”

Maybe Wilson isn’t the long-term solution. Maybe he still hasn’t even shown enough to believe he can be a quarterback for a playoff team, and the Jets might even add an alternative option in the coming days, like Colt McCoy. But for one week at least, he wasn’t the reason why the Jets lost.

That was the rest of the team.

(Photo: Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images)

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