Zach Wilson’s message to Jets before game-winning drive vs. Steelers: ‘Score an effing touchdown’

Zach Wilson’s message to Jets before game-winning drive vs. Steelers: ‘Score an effing touchdown’

He wanted more. And according to his teammates, he expressed it in the huddle before driving them down the field to complete a shocking 24-20 come-from-behind win.

“‘Let’s go score an effing touchdown,’” running back Breece Hall said, relaying Wilson’s message in the huddle with a laugh. “That was our whole mentality.”

“He said that we’ve pretty much got to put it in [the end zone],” receiver Corey Davis said. “We’ve got to win our one-on-one battles, we know what’s at stake. And we made it happen.”

The Jets were in deep trouble early in the fourth quarter against the Steelers, as they fell behind 20-10 and Wilson was having a nightmarish day as he returned from a knee injury for his 2022 debut: he completed just eight of his first 24 passes for 124 yards and two interceptions.

But Wilson changed everything with two series in the fourth quarter. Wilson led an 11-play, 81-yard drive to narrow the gap to 20-17 with 7:31 left. And when the offense got the ball back with 3:34 left after Michael Carter II intercepted Kenny Pickett, Wilson was feeling confident about the Jets’ chances of winning the game right there and then.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Wilson said. “From the beginning, I think there was no doubt in my mind. Especially when I hit a couple of quick passes … and we’re running the ball well. As an offense, you can just feel it.”

And when Wilson delivered his message to his teammates before that drive, it definitely resonated.

“He’s got big balls, man,” Hall said “He never shut down. He never turned it off. You can just tell he believes in himself.”

“That’s what you want from a guy like that,” Davis said. “And that kind of turnt us up in the huddle and kind of got us going. That energy was contagious and we felt that. We were all fired up and knew we had to play our best ball on that last drive”

Wilson started the drive with a 15-yard pass to Davis to get the Jets to midfield. Hall lost two yards on the next carry but he and Wilson connected on second down for a six-yard pass to make it third-and-6 at the two-minute warning. That’s when Wilson found tight end Tyler Conklin over the middle for an eight-yard gain and a huge first down.

“At the end of games when you have to make something happen,” Conklin said, “we’ve got the guys in that offense and on this team to do that. So we feel pretty confident when we get to the end of the game that we can make it happen.”

An illegal block penalty on the next play set up first-and-20 from the Pittsburgh 48 with 1:44 to play. But Wilson and running back Michael Carter hooked up for an 11-yard gain. And on second-and-9, Wilson found Davis for 17 yards to get them down to the 20 with about 90 seconds remaining. Wilson wouldn’t throw another pass.

Four plays later, on second-and-goal from the 2, Hall punched the ball into the end zone with a risky play – he stretched the ball out in an effort to score, initially it was ruled a fumble (recovered by Conklin) but after review the refs determined it had crossed the line to give the Jets a 24-20 lead with 16 seconds remaining.

Wilson and the Jets needed 10 plays and just more than three minutes to go 65 yards for a pivotal score, one that changes everything for them as they get into the meat of their season. Had the Jets lost they would have been 1-3 and in danger of playing themselves out of postseason contention before the end of October once again. The negativity surrounding the team after 11 straight seasons of missing the playoffs would have intensified. And Wilson would have been criticized for his costly mistakes in yet another Jets loss.

But everything changed with two huge drives in the fourth quarter. And at 2-2 ‚with two clutch and improbable road wins on their resume, it’s starting to feel as if the Jets might be figuring something out.

“Being 2-2 right now, it’s pretty good,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “We’ve got a really good chance. But you never know. But every game is independent of one another.”

Of course, they’ll have to back it up next week against the Dolphins to start cementing themselves as a scrappy, never-give up team.

But there’s no doubt that this was a sign of progress and a huge step in the right direction.

“It was an ugly win,” Wilson said. “But it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing football. The emotions, the ups and downs, trying to overcome adversity. I just thought: such cool fight by the guys.”

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