The quarterback was terrible, sure. Zach Wilson doesn’t get a pass, not on a day when he could barely complete a pass, not on a day when he was finally benched in favor of Tim Willie Boyle, not on a day when he made a bloodied and banged-up Bills defense look like the Monsters of the Midway, and didn’t complete even one pass to a wide receiver.
But he wasn’t the reason the Jets’ season was officially sent to assisted living Sunday by the Bills, a 32-6 laugher for a team that itself was mired in chaos until about 4:24 Sunday afternoon. It was a minute later that Xavier Gipson decided to run back the opening kickoff, and about three seconds after that when he was separated from the football.
If you’d been a minute late returning to your La-Z-Boy with your chips, your guac and your leadoff beer, you discovered the Jets were already down 3-0. And while you might think the Jets should be proficient at playing from behind because they get so much practice at it, it was clear that the Bills would be able to name their score.
They named it 32-6.
So Team Chaos grabbed its season back.
Team Ineptitude, on the other hand, straggles back to Jersey, for what could well be one of the most hazardous dates of the year the day after Thanksgiving, with the Dolphins primed to turn Black Friday even darker, and send the Jets careening even deeper into the abyss.
“Jets fans,” running back Breece Hall lamented, “don’t deserve this.”
You don’t have to tell Jets fans that, although by now most of them are probably too numb to feel anything. Maybe it would have been better on everyone if the first Bills game went the way this one did after Aaron Rodgers went down. But that didn’t happen. It wasn’t a hallucination that they were 4-3 what feels like an hour and a half ago.
But it sure feels that way now, after three straight losses, after this utter evisceration leaves them at 4-6 and staring at extinction before the calendar even hits December.
“I don’t think anyone did anything today,” a bedeviled and bedraggled Robert Saleh said when the pummeling was over. “Players, coaches, schemes … obviously, not good enough. None of it was good enough.”
It’s never a good sign when a team defers the opening kickoff, as the Bills did, and still gets to take the game’s first snap, thanks to Gipson, whose opening-night walk-off punt return now feels like it happened in an alternate universe.
It’s never a good sign when two of your best players (Garrett Wilson and Sauce Gardner) can assume every bit as much blame for a thumping as your singularly most-demonized player (Zach Wilson).
But that was the case Sunday. Garrett Wilson caught but two balls, and one of them he fumbled away. Gardner — with the game still competitive early in the third quarter — was flagged for an unforgivable unsportsmanlike penalty and later was burned on the 81-yard Josh Allen-to-Khalil Shakir TD that sealed the game.
And it’s never a good sign when the team’s pride and joy — the defense — surrenders 32 points to an offense that was struggling so badly that it pink-slipped its coordinator five days earlier. Maybe it was simply the inevitable Sunday everyone could see coming when the unit simply grew weary shouldering every ounce of the team’s hopes. Maybe they had an off day. Maybe Allen took great delight in making Saleh answer for publicly saying he’d “embarrassed” him in the opener.
Whatever the case, they were stomped, and looked every bit as overmatched in the second half as the offense did the whole 60. If any of the 70,603 at Highmark Stadium felt worried about the Bills when they took their seats at 4:25, much of that angst was dissolved by about 4:35 or so.
“Everything felt really tough,” Zach Wilson said.
You know what? Football is supposed to be hard, especially at this level. Winning football games is supposed to be hard. Somehow, other teams figure out a way. Somehow, going on 13 years since their last playoff appearance, the Jets make all of it seem more complicated than that math problem that Will Hunting lit on fire in front of his professor.
With the Dolphins on deck. In a short week. Happy Thanksgiving.