Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur took the blame Thursday for the Zach Wilson sneak on 4th-and-2 that cost the Jets the biggest upset of the year against the Buccaneers.
“It’s 100% on me,” LaFleur told the media during his weekly availability. “Disappointed with myself for two reasons, I pride myself on communication and our unit on execution, you’ve heard me talk about execution a lot and I failed at both of those.
“The total intent was to get Braxton (Berrios) the ball, he was balling, and I failed at both of that to get that relayed. Our quarterback did exactly what he was supposed to do in that moment. Like I said, I know what our intent was, whether people want to believe that one or not, but that’s what happened, and I failed at both. And, again, I have to live with that. I know I’m going to learn from that.”
It’s been well documented that Braxton Berrios was supposed to get the ball on an end around on fourth down instead of Wilson running a quarterback sneak with the Jets trying to run out the clock with 2:17 to play holding a 24-21 lead. After Wilson was stuffed, Tom Brady led a 9-play, 93-yard drive to complete the comeback.
LaFleur thought the message was relayed to Wilson, but when the actual play was run he realized he failed to properly communicate the correct play call.
“When we knew that Braxton was good to go, who we thought was just balling at that time, it was just like let’s get him the ball,” LaFleur said. “And, again, it didn’t get communicated the way it needed to get communicated. And, again, I have to live with that and learn from that. 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 which has held QBs to a passer rating of 85 (9th best) and forced 16 interceptions.
“It probably was his best game of the year. I thought Zach did a good job,” LaFleur said. “He went out there and he’s been getting better and better every single week. You guys are seeing that.”
And Wilson credits his last two weeks (three TDs and zero picks) to the players around him taking advantage of their opportunities.
Guys like Berrios, TE Kenny Yeboah have made timely catches. Offensive linemen Dan Feeney, Greg Van Roten, Conor McDermott and Chuma Edoga have done the job in pass protection and paving run lanes. All are players making contributions in elevated roles due to COVID or injury.
That’s aided Wilson’s progression in recent weeks.
“Guys taking advantage of their opportunity and you see guys that have something to prove,” Wilson said, “and are going out there and giving it everything they have, and they’ve done a great job around me and that’s all I can ask for.”
Now can Wilson continue the recent progress in a hostile environment in the season finale against the Buffalo Bills who are fighting to clinch the AFC East?
It won’t be easy.
The Bills have the best pass defense in the NFL. To put in context how strong the Bills pass defense is, the average NFL passing attack in 2021 produces 221 yards through the air per game. The Bills have only allowed more than 221 passing yards three times this year.
And only one QB has thrown for over 300 yards: Brady.
The Bills’ pass defense has forced 19 interceptions (3rd most) and their completion percentage against of 57%, 11 passing touchdowns allowed and 2,763 total passing yards all rank as the best in the NFL.
“A great defense, a really good defense. We watch film on these guys and very sound on what they do, very good on the back end and then of course, causing havoc up front, getting pressure on the quarterback and different things,” Wilson said. “So, the challenge for me is how cleanly can I play, how efficient can I be, how can I just see enough to just play the play how we need to play it and just put my team in the best position that I can, just be sharp in decision making and just let the guys around me do what they do best and let them make plays.”
But what will benefit the Jets is if their rushing attack from the past two weeks (423 yards on the ground) travels to Buffalo. The Bills are allowing 113 yards rushing per game, 19th most.
So while LaFleur accepted responsibility for his mistake on 4th-and-2 at the end of the game, Wilson’s play against the Buccaneers was a bright spot.
Now it’s on LaFleur and Wilson to continue this trajectory against a tough Bills defense.
Source: Berkshire mont