ORCHARD PARK — Robert Saleh finally joined many Jets fans and decided he had seen enough of Zach Wilson.
The Jets’ coach benched Wilson with 2:17 left in the third quarter of Sunday’s 32-6 loss to the Bills, replacing him with Tim Boyle after weeks of questions about whether the Jets should make a quarterback change.
Saleh resisted benching Wilson, the 2021 No. 2 overall pick, despite his struggles this season. But Sunday he finally gave in and sent Wilson to the bench after watching another dismal day of offense. Wilson completed 7 of 15 for 81 yards with one touchdown and one interception before heading to the bench.
The benching comes on a day where the Jets actually scored a touchdown, ending a drought of 12 quarters and 40 straight possessions without reaching the end zone. But they did nothing else.
The loss drops the Jets to 4-6 and deals another blow to the team’s slim playoff hopes and the idea that Aaron Rodgers can return and save the season. The Bills improved to 6-5.
At one point in the middle of the second quarter, the Jets had zero total yards, but they mounted a touchdown drive just before halftime after a fake punt gave them a spark.
Wilson, who has started every game this season after Rodgers’ Week 1 injury, was sacked five times behind an offensive line that had four backups playing by the end of the first quarter. Wilson did not complete a pass to a wide receiver. The Jets most effective offense was throwing to Breece Hall, who had a team-high five receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Boyle entered the game with the Jets already down 23 points. His first drive ended with a Garrett Wilson fumble, the Jets’ third turnover of the game.
The success the Jets’ defense has had against Bills quarterback Josh Allen was nowhere to be found in this game. Allen threw three touchdown passes, including an 81-yarder to Khalil Shakir. He completed 20 of 32 passing for 275 yards. His only interception came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
The Jets made some minor changes to their offense in hopes of giving it life but they did not work. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett moved from the sideline to the booth to call plays. Jeremy Ruckert and Jason Brownlee had bigger roles and Dalvin Cook became the third-down back but the Jets’ best play of the game was having punter Thomas Morstead throw a fake-punt pass to cornerback Brandin Echols.
When the punter throwing to a cornerback is your best offense, you’re in trouble
The Jets now face the 7-3 Dolphins on Friday at MetLife Stadium and Boyle may be the starting quarterback. A loss in that game and any hope of making the playoffs is over.
The game could not have started off worse for the Jets. Rookie returner Xavier Gipson, the hero of the Week 1 game, fumbled the opening kickoff when Reggie Gilliam drilled him and the fumble was recovered by Quintin Morris at the Jets’ 21-yard line.
The Jets’ defense came up big, as usual, and Quinnen Williams sacked Allen on third down, forcing a 48-yard field goal by Tyler Bass.
The Bills got a second field goal in the first quarter from Bass after putting together a 14-play drive that went 58 yards but was stopped in the red zone by the stingy defense.
In the second quarter, Bills coach Sean McDermott opted for another field goal on fourth-and-2 from the 15. Bass’ 33-yard field goal pushed the Bills lead to 9-0, which felt insurmountable with the way the Jets’ offense was playing. Bills fans booed the decision to kick but clearly McDermott was confident they could keep the Jets out of the end zone.
The Jets’ offense was sputtering again and was hurt by more injuries on the offensive line. They started Chris Glaser at right guard, the sixth different starter at that position. Then, left tackle Mekhi Becton injured his ankle in the first quarter, forcing rookie Carter Warren into the lineup.
As bad as the offense has been lately, they have not been turning it over a lot. But Wilson threw a terrible interception with 5:19 left in the second quarter. He threw toward Garrrett Wilson on the sideline and Rasul Douglas jumped in front of Wilson and intercepted the ball, giving the Bills the ball at the Jets’ 24.
Five plays later, Allen threw to a wide-open James Cook for a 5-yard touchdown and the Bills had a 16-0 lead.
The Jets ended their 12-quarter touchdown drought just before it went to 13. Wilson threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Hall with 45 seconds remaining in the first half. They failed to convert the two-point try, leaving the score at 16-6 going into halftime.
The 11-play touchdown drive featured two big fourth-down conversions. The first came on the fake punt at their own 26-yard line. Morstead completed an 18-yard pass to Echols for the first down that jumpstarted the drive.
The Bills opened the second half with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was aided by a personal foul on Sauce Gardner. On fourth and-1 from the Jets’ 28, Allen threw to former Jet running back Ty Johnson, who raced up the sideline for a touchdown and a 22-6 lead.
The Bills iced the game later in the third quarter when Allen found Shakir racing past Gardner for a long catch that then turned into an 81-yard touchdown when Jordan Whitehead, Gardner and Echols could not tackle him despite surrounding him.