Jets’ Zach Wilson comes up huge in clutch to deliver shocking 24-20 comeback win over Steelers

Jets’ Zach Wilson comes up huge in clutch to deliver shocking 24-20 comeback win over Steelers

PITTSBURGH — The New York Jets looked down and out and second-year quarterback Zach Wilson looked lost as he made his first start of 2022.

But in the fourth quarter, Wilson and the Jets came up clutch to make up for it in the biggest way possible.

The Jets stormed back for an improbable 24-20 win over the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium thanks to a monster fourth quarter from Wilson, who finished the game 18-of-36 for 252 yards a touchdown and two interceptions. That stat line is not impressive. But when you consider that Wilson was 18-of-24 for 124 yards and two picks to start the fourth quarter, and he finished 10-of-12 for 138 yards and a touchdown.

The Jets still have a ton to fix. And the Steelers are clearly a mess – their decision to go to Kenny Pickett in the second half wasn’t enough to fix their struggling offense as the rookie threw three picks – but this was a huge step in the right direction for a team that had yet to show it could close out a winnable game.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Jets seemed doomed to fall to 1-3 down 20-10. But they changed everything with two clutch drives.

Wilson led an 11-play, 81-yard drive that finished with a five-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis. The key play came earlier on the drive when Wilson found Davis for a huge fourth-down conversion. The Jets turned first and goal from the 1 into first and goal from the 11 after two bad penalties, but still managed to finish the drive with a touchdown.

On the final drive of the game, set up by Michael Carter II’s interception of Pickett, the Jets got down to the goalline with time to put the game away. And rookie running back Breece Hall did it with a questionable decision. Hall, on second-and-goal from the 2, stretched the ball out to try and score the touchdown. Initially, it was ruled to be a fumble. But upon review the officials determined Hall had crossed the plane of the goalline, securing the game-winning touchdown. A good break for the Jets? Maybe things are changing.

The Jets had a chance to take full command of this game late in the first half, leading 10-3 and driving deep in Pittsburgh territory. But Wilson made a costly mistake that changed the tone of the game.

On third-and-11, with the Jets in field goal range at the Steelers 29, Wilson fired a deep pass into double coverage looking for receiver Jeff Smith. The ball was off target and picked easily by Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton.

It was Wilson’s first interception since Week 13 of the 2021 season, and it was a bad one. The Jets had a chance to add to their lead and go into halftime up by double digits if Wilson had just thrown the ball away.

Instead, he forced the ball into double coverage. And the Steelers made them pay. A roughing the passer penalty by Carl Lawson set up Steelers kicker Chris Boswell for a 59-yard field goal on an untimed down to end the first half. Boswell made the kick, the longest Steelers field goal in the history of Acrisure Stadium, and ended up taking the lead early in the second half.

The Jets lost another offensive tackle on Sunday, when rookie right tackle Max Mitchell went down with a knee injury late in the first half and was carted into the locker room. It was the latest brutal twist for a team that cannot keep its tackles healthy. The Jets already have three tackles who have been projected to start this season on injured reserve: Mekhi Becton, George Fant and Duane Brown.

Mitchell was forced into starting action because of the injuries and acquitted himself well through the first three games.

Mitchell went down holding his knee late in the second quarter and immediately appeared to be in pain and upset. Teammate Connor McGovern huddled over him in the moments after the injury and coach Robert Saleh came onto the field as many players took a knee. Mitchell was consoled by nearly all of his offensive teammates before the cart took him away.

The Jets came out with an unexpected offensive line to start the game. The biggest move? Second-year offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker, who started last year at left guard and the first three games of this year at right guard, moved over to left tackle. It was an innovative move by the Jets’ coaching staff and one that offered the best protection for Wilson.

Nate Herbig, who the Jets signed during training camp, made his first start of the season at right guard.

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