The Jets knocked off the Chiefs 38-31 on Sunday, improving to 5-7 and keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:
1. Each week, I usually like to look back at the last time the Jets played that week’s opponent. Sometimes it generates a story idea or raises a good question. If nothing, it just reminds you of what happened the last time the two teams played.
Last week, I looked back at the Jets-Chiefs game in 2016. That was a monumental game for the Jets. It was the beginning of the end for that team, even though it was only Week 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions in the 24-3 loss and the Jets unraveled. Later, we discovered that it was even worse off the field than on it. That was the game that featured the locker room argument between Brandon Marshall and Sheldon Richardson that led to a rift on the team. It was something the Jets never recovered from.
Fast forward to Sunday. This 38-31 win for the Jets over the Chiefs feels like another turning point to me, albeit a late one this season. The Jets found a way to win a game in the fourth quarter, something that has been a bugaboo for two months. That was huge mentally for this team.
Another aspect I think will have some long-lasting effects was the fact that the Jets did not play well defensively and still won. We all thought (me included) that the Jets were going to have to play “perfect games” to win this year. They showed Sunday that is not the case. The defense was far from perfect, allowing a slew of big plays. Yet, the Jets offense picked them up and the team found a way to overcome the early 14-0 deficit.
This is the type of game the Jets have not won in a while. When the Chiefs scored two easy touchdowns early, I started thinking this might be a game like the Colts loss on Monday night last year when Indianapolis just ran roughshod over the Jets and they never got off the mat.
Now, the bad news for the Jets is this win comes on the first weekend in December. Jets coach Todd Bowles said last week the Jets are still learning to win. They took a big step toward that Sunday, but they only have four games left.
This could be a bigger step toward the maturation of the team going forward, though. There were plenty of young players on the field Sunday that will form the core of this team for years to come. The Jets have to hope that the lessons of what it takes to win stick with them as they move through their careers.
2. When Muhammad Wilkerson did not jog onto the field with the team’s defensive starters on Sunday, I thought, “here we go again.” It was evident that Wilkerson had been benched and he was benched the past two years for being late, so I figured that was what it was again. After the game, we found out he was late to a meeting Saturday.
It is inexcusable that Wilkerson continues to have issues with tardiness. I am guessing this was not the first time he was late this season either, since Bowles does not usually sit a player for being late one time. Players are late. It happens. Bowles said as much this offseason when he made a joke about alarm clocks not going off. But Wilkerson should be beyond this. He wants to be a leader of the team. Leaders don’t slip up like this.
The Jets have a decision to make on Wilkerson this offseason. They can cut him and move on in March without owing him the $16.75 million his contract calls for in 2018. It would also save them $11 million in salary cap space.
Early in the season, I thought the Jets likely would cut him since he was not performing well. Then, he had a midseason surge and I thought maybe the Jets would ask him to restructure his contract to take a paycut. After Sunday, though, I wonder how fed up the Jets are with him. This could be the final month of Wilkerson as a Jet.
3. Then, there is Darron Lee. He was late to Saturday’s walkthrough and Bowles made him inactive for the game. Lee is in a different category than Wilkerson. This is the first offense we know of. He is also 23. Wilkerson is 28. Big difference.
That is not to excuse Lee. He should be on time to work like we all should. The Jets have to hope this is a wakeup call for Lee, who has shown signs of immaturity in his two years with the Jets. The 2016 first-round pick sometimes acts like he has made 10 Pro Bowls when he is still unproven. Maybe watching from the sideline Sunday will impact him positively and this won’t be a problem again.
4. The Jets offensive line has been a tough one to figure out this year. They go through stretches of good play followed by stretches of really poor play and then back again. It is hard to get a read on just how talented they are.
Sunday, they had one of their better games. They did not allow a sack and the Jets popped a few long runs. The Chiefs have a good pass rush, led by Justin Houston. He was not heard from Sunday. Second-year tackle Brandon Shell has played pretty well this season and Sunday he was outstanding.
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan will have a tough evaluation to make on the offensive line this offseason. I believe it needs upgrading, but with all of the other areas of need, I wonder if Maccagnan will feel like he can get by with this group for another year. It will be interesting to watch.
Revealing stat: The Jets ran 85 plays in the game. The Chiefs ran 46. If you just looked at that stat, you would think the Jets blew them out, but the Chiefs had some big plays that kept the score close. Still, it illustrates an impressive performance by the Jets offense and the way they controlled the clock.
Surprising snap count: Rashard Robinson got the start at cornerback and played 18 of 46 (39 percent) of the defensive snaps. The Jets acquired Robinson at the trade deadline in October and have been getting him up to speed since. He did not fare well in his first start for the Jets. He gave up the 79-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill and was benched after that.
Game ball: The 38-year-old wonder did it again Sunday. Quarterback Josh McCown had a huge day. He completed 26-of-36 passing for 331 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for two touchdowns. No one could have seen this coming from McCown. He has been great for the Jets this year.