The Jets stunned the Buffalo Bills on Monday as rookie Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard punt return in overtime gave them a wild 22-16 Week 1 win. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, it was a win that looks to have come at a cost.
Aaron Rodgers’ much-anticipated Jets debut was basically over before it started as he exited the game on a cart early in the first quarter. Every Jets fan’s worst fears were realized when Rodgers was sacked on just his fourth snap and sat down after the play with an injury that would soon see him ruled out for the rest of the game.
While X-rays were negative, Rodgers went to the locker room with a protective walking boot on his left foot, the severity of the injury is still to be determined. But Robert Saleh indicated in his postgame news conference that it is feared the veteran sustained a season-ending injury.
With their talisman lost after just four plays, the Jets were understandably rattled and fell behind 13-3 at halftime. Rodgers’ replacement, Zach Wilson, made a few good throws but his second quarter interception to Matt Milano was a costly error that was reminiscent of the kind of mistake that saw the Jets look to replace him at the end of last season. Wilson ended up with 140 yards and a touchdown.
The defense, led by Jordan Whitehead’s three interceptions, kept the Jets in the game and they battled back to tie the score on a juggling Garrett Wilson catch with just under five minutes remaining, then took the lead on a Greg Zuerlein field goal following a Quinnen Williams fumble recovery. However, the Bills were able to send the game to overtime when Tyler Bass banked a 50-yard field goal off the upright with two seconds left.
Regardless of the outcome of this game, the outlook for the Jets’ season will look extremely different if Rodgers’ injury is confirmed by an MRI on Tuesday to be as bad as feared.
Here are some takeaways…
– The offensive line had been a concern all offseason and Rodgers was under heavy pressure on each of his three dropbacks, the third of which saw him tripped by Leonard Floyd. To their credit, they settled down thereafter, allowing just one more sack and one more quarterback hit in the rest of the first half, although that may have been because they took other measures to mitigate pressure with Wilson in the game. It’s obviously not possible to project how things would have gone with Rodgers still in the game.
– Making his return from last year’s torn ACL, Breece Hall made an immediate impact with a 26-yard burst on the Jets’ first offensive play and then broke an electrifying 83-yard run to set up their only points of the first half. Although Hall got the start, Dalvin Cook got more of the workload and the fact Hall ran out of gas and was caught from behind on that long run is perhaps a sign that he’s still not quite back to 100 percent. Hall ended up with 127 yards on just 10 carries and also caught a 20-yard pass.
– On defense, the Jets gave up a disappointing 188 yards in the first half, with Josh Allen extending the play on third down to hit Stefon Diggs for the only touchdown. It’s impossible to know whether how demoralized they were over the Rodgers injury impacted upon their performance, but the inability of the offense to sustain drives without him won’t have helped. They settled down well in the second half and forced four turnovers overall but were unable to stop the Bills from driving down and tying the game at the end of regulation.
– With Wilson at quarterback, the Jets were mostly forced to play conservatively on offense, relying a lot on Hall, Cook and the screen game to carry them offensively. Allen Lazard led the Jets with 46 yards on two catches.
– One player who stepped up was Quincy Williams, who was all over the field making plays, including a pass breakup near the goal line and a big open field hit shy of the marker on third and short. He ended up with 10 tackles.
– In his own return to action, Mekhi Becton had some good blocks in the running game, but struggled to stay in front of his man at times in pass protection. It was Duane Brown whose missed block led to the Rodgers injury, though.
The Jets hit the road to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sep. 17 at 4:25 p.m.