The Jets do not play this Thursday. Thursday will be a practice day, Day 2 of their preparation for a critical game in Minnesota three days later. But in many ways, Thursday will have deep meaning for the Jets.
At midnight on Thursday, the calendar changes from November to December.
It will be December 1. Jets go 7-4. They will be able to make the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years, but most importantly, they will play some big games in December. In some NFL areas, this would cause yawning and buzzing.
This is good news here.
So of course, bash Sunday’s opponent, the hapless Bears, all you want. Yes, it’s a bad team with an abysmal defense. Yes, they were missing the one player who makes them watchable from a distance, quarterback Justin Fields, with a bum shoulder.
But the Jets beat Chicago soundly, 31-10. They pulled off an unusually slow start from the defense. They ignored the weather, the sky spitting rain from the start to the last shot. They shrugged off a turbulent week where the blonde quarterback of tomorrow became the third streetwear wearer today.
“We ignored all the noise,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said about 15 minutes after his stunned players left the field at MetLife Stadium. “The guys did a great job of executing.”
They did it. They saw the Bears take a 10-7 lead even after Mike F. White led them on a 75-yard touchdown run on their first series of the game, with the defense still looking a bit hungover from Thanksgiving.
But the moment White connected with Garrett Wilson on a 54-yard play with 4:57 left in the second quarter to restore the Jets’ lead, the tenor and feel of the game changed permanently. The defense did not award more points. The offense operated as efficiently as it has in years, with White rushing for 315 yards and spreading his 22 completions to 10 different receivers.
“It was too much fun and it showed in the result,” sang Elijah Moore, a man forgotten for most of the season, who caught two fly balls, one for 42 yards, a 22-yard touchdown that pushed the Jets. at 24-10 in the third. “This is real New York Jets football. This is the definition of team football.
Moore wasn’t going to get any arguments from the other 52 men dressed in green or any of the 77,963 inside MetLife who enjoyed a good three-hour bleed but still seemed to be having fun, singing both to their JETS and for their quarterback, who is currently the head of the clubhouse for the office of the mayor of Florham Park.
“It’s great to play football with your friends,” White said. “It was a complete win for the team.”
The most encouraging part of Sunday is that the nearly one-man Jets enjoyed their victory without getting carried away, with the underlying understanding that there is still work to be done, and lots of work.
Playing meaningful games in December is very different from winning them, and next week’s mission — against the 9-2 Vikings, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — kicks off a solid two-week gauntlet that will include a return date with the Bills at Orchard Park.
“Our guys don’t back down,” Saleh said, and what’s also clear is that they don’t carry things over much from week to week — positive and negative — week to week, and neither does the other one. Part of that was undoubtedly the presence of White, who not only played a terrific game, but through his mere insertion as QB1, reflected a simple but essential part of the meritocracy that Saleh is trying to establish.
You play well, you play.
You don’t, you sit down. It doesn’t matter what your draft day pedigree is.
That’s a big lesson to teach a young quarterback like Zach Wilson, and it’s an even bigger message to send to other members of the team that has gotten the Jets to where they are entering December. , to the abyss of a playoff push. The season stopped being about moral victories months ago. Only the right ones will do it now.
“We’ve got to keep the basics,” said CJ Mosely, the soul of the defense who had an interception, repeating a mantra he often instills in his teammates. “We haven’t scratched the surface of our ability to be great.”
The best part of this? If he’s right, the Jets have an opportunity to save those words. Next week in Minnesota would be a wonderful place to start.