Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur took the blame on Thursday for Zach Wilson’s fourth- and second-place sneaks, which gave the Jets their biggest upset of the year against the Buccaneers.
“It’s 100% on me,” LaFleur told the media during his weekly availability. “Frustrated with myself for two reasons, I’m proud of our unit on communication and on execution, you’ve heard me talk a lot about execution and I’ve failed at both of them.
“The overall intention was to get the ball to Braxton (Berios), he was bowling, and I failed to relay both of them. Our quarterback did exactly what he should have done in that moment. Like I said, I know what our intention was, whether people want to believe it or not, but it just happened, and I failed at both. And, again, I have to live with that. I know I’m going to learn from it.”
It has been well documented that Braxton Berrios had to run the ball to fourth instead of Wilson running the quarterback sneak, with the Jets taking a 24–21 lead with 2:17 to play. Tried to start the clock. After Wilson was filled, Tom Brady leads 9-play, 93-yard drive To complete the return.
LaFleur thought the message was relayed to Wilson, but when the actual play was played he realized that he had failed to properly communicate the correct play call.
“While we knew Braxton was good to go, who we thought was just bowling at the time, it was like let’s give him the ball,” LaFleur said. “And, again, it wasn’t communicated the way it needed to be communicated. And, again, I have to live with him and learn from him. It sucks.”
But LaFleur won’t let the failed fourth down call minimize how well wilson played throughout the game.
Wilson went 19-for-33 for 234 yards and a touchdown against a defense that put the QB on a passer rating of 85 (9th best) and forced 16 interceptions.
“It was probably his best game of the year. I thought Zach did a good job,” LaFleur said. “He’s been there and he’s getting better and better every single week. You guys are seeing it.”
And Wilson credits his last two weeks (Three TDs and Zero Picks) players around you to take advantage of their opportunities.
Players like Berios, TE Kenny Yeboa took catches on time. Offensive linemen Dan Feeney, Greg Van Roten, Conor McDermott and Chuma Edoga have worked to secure the pass and ensure the run lane. All are players contributing to advanced roles due to COVID or injury.
That has helped Wilson progress in recent weeks.
“Guys taking advantage of your opportunity and you see people who have something to prove,” Wilson said, “and going out there and giving everything they have, and they’ve been around me so well. Has worked and that’s all I can ask for.”
Now can Wilson continue the recent progress in the hostile environment in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills who are fighting to regain the AFC East?
It will not be easy.
The Bills have the best pass defense in the NFL. To put in context how strong the Bill’s passing defense is, the average NFL passing attack in 2021 produces 221 yards through the air per game. Bills have allowed more than 221 passing yards this year only three times.
And only one QB has been thrown for over 300 yards: Brady.
The Receiving Corps, which had been destroyed by the Jets, lost another piece.
Braxton Berrios is “not looking good” to play against the Bills on Sunday, according to Robert Saleh, a fan favorite in recent weeks and the Jets’ lead receiver. Berios is dealing with quad contours.
Berrios’ absence is another blow to the offense that is missing Corey Davis and Elijah Moore. When the Jets No. 1 and No. 2 receivers were out, they provided a scoring spark for the Jets offense. He had 180 receiving yards and four all-purpose touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving and one kickoff return).
Earlier in the week, Saleh believed the injury was not serious and thought Berios would be available against the Bills.
Also, the Jets expected Moore to return from his quad injury. But he only practiced on the rehab side of the practice area throughout the week and never parted ways with the team. They wanted to see how Moore’s body reacted throughout the week. But it didn’t progress well enough.
So, Moore isn’t going too apt this weekend.
There is good news though.
Jamieson Crowder, who missed the last two weeks with a calf injury, is on track to play on Sunday. This lessens the shock of the absence of Berios as they are interchangeable in both slots. Crowder currently leads the Jets in receptions (50) and is third in receiving yards (431).
The return of the crowd should be promoted. But against the Bills, the Jets run must be the leading charge to keep them in the game.
“When it comes down to it it’s January playoff football,” said Jets pioneer Michael Carter. “The best teams in the world have to be able to run the ball. So our goal is to set up the run game early.”
Bill’s pass defense has forced 19 interceptions (third most). QB completion percentage per unit is 57%, he has thrown 11 passing touchdowns and 2,763 total passing yards, all ranked as the best among NFL safety.
The Jets’ attack total for the past two weeks is 423 yards, the second highest in the NFL. If there’s any weakness in the Bills elite defense that allows 17 points per game, it’s the run defense.
“The run game is always going to be important. This is one thing we are trying to establish. i think o-line, john benton, mike [LaFleur]”They’ve done an incredible job speeding it up,” Saleh said. “But especially at this time of year. It’s cold, it’s going to be slippery. It’s going to be a little wet. You’re in December, it’s all about being able to run football.. There’s something about the run game that just gets worn down on people. And when you can do it, it makes it easier to play a football game and it opens up everything else. ,
Gained back on weapon durability.
Injuries within the Jets receiving corps piled up over the course of the season. Moore lost six games with a quad and a concussion. Davis missed eight games with hip and core muscle injuries that ended his season. Crowder missed five because of his calf, groin and COVID-19. Keelan Cole missed three due to a knee and COVID-19.
Zack Wilson played for two games in his matchup with the Eagles and Falcons, with his top three receiving choices at Davis, Moore and Crowder.
So when the Jets enter the off season, they need to add depth and upper level pieces to the situation.
They are close in terms of talent with Moore and Davis, but they could use a few more pieces because the receiver is a place where players often suffer soft tissue injuries. So the Jets are ready when the injury strikes, yet they’ll have the high-end talent for Wilson.
“A great defense, a really good defense. We watch the movie on these guys and they love what they do, very good at the back end and then of course, wreaks havoc in the front, quarterback and Pressure builds on different things,” Wilson said. “So, the challenge for me is how cleanly I can play, how skilled I can be, how can I see enough to just play that. We have to figure out how to play it and put our team in the best position that I can, just be quick to make decisions and let the people around me do what they do best and let them play. ,
But what advantage will the Jets have if their rapid attack for the past two weeks (423 yards on the ground) travels to Buffalo. The Bills are allowing a run of 113 yards per game, which is 19th most.
So while Lafleur accepted responsibility for his mistake in fourth and second at the end of the game, Wilson’s game against the Buccaneers was a bright spot.
Now it is up to LaFleur and Wilson to continue this trajectory against a tough bill defense.