HOUSTON — The Jets got Zach Wilson back and got back into the win column, although one did not exactly lead to the other.
Wilson did not play great in his return from a knee injury, but the Jets’ defense dominated the Texans after some early struggles and the offense did just enough to get an 21-14 win Sunday at NRG Stadium.
The win moves the Jets to 3-8 this season and the Texans dropped to 2-9 in this battle of NFL cellar-dwellers.
Wilson finished the game 14 of 24 for 145 yards with one interception and a rushing touchdown. It was Wilson’s first game in a month after he suffered a knee injury on Oct. 24. The offense did not look as efficient with Wilson back in control as it had with Mike White, Josh Johnson or Joe Flacco.
Still, Wilson played better in the second half and was able to notch his second victory as the Jets starting quarterback.
John Franklin-Myers led the defense with an interception and two sacks. The defensive line was swarming all day and sacked Tyrod Taylor five times.
The Texans gained 157 yards in the first half and just 45 in the second half as the Jets’ defense stiffened. Houston failed to score on its final six possessions, punting four times, missing a field goal and turning it over on downs.
The Jets overcame an 11-point deficit to take an 18-14 lead in the third quarter. They stretched the lead to 21-14 on a 37-yard field goal from Matt Ammendola with 3:34 left in the game. The field goal came after two fourth-down conversions, one on a 13-yard pass from Wilson to Keelan Cole and the other on a 7-yard run by Elijah Moore on a jet sweep.
The Jets had a brief injury scare in the fourth quarter when Wilson limped off the field after a sack, but Wilson did not miss a snap.
Wilson started off slowly. After completing his first pass to Cole, he missed his next five passes, including a brutal interception. Wilson looked like he was rushing in his return. The time off did not seem to slow things down for him.
The Jets’ defense looked like it was going to get run over at the start of the game, allowing the Texans to drive to the 17-yard line. But Franklin-Myers made a huge play to stop the Houston drive. He tipped a Taylor screen pass to himself, intercepted it and returned it 32 yards to the Houston 37.
The Jets were not able to find the end zone after the turnover. Wilson was sacked on third-and-goal by Jacob Martin, who appeared to beat Jets tackle George Fant. The Jets had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Ammendola and a 3-0 lead.
Wilson’s worst play of the day came with 2:14 left in the first quarter. On third-and-17, he looked like he was going to run when no one was open. But he then chose to flip the ball to Ty Johnson, who had turned his back to block. The ball bounced off Johnson’s shoulder and Houston’s Tavierre Thomas intercepted it at the 24.
The Jets cut down on stupid penalties after committing too many in last week’s loss to the Dolphins, but they were hit with a big one following the interception. Michael Carter II was flagged for pass interference on third down that put the ball at the Jets’ 9.
Houston turned the Wilson interception into points with Taylor connecting with Brevin Jordan for a 13-yard touchdown and a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. Taylor stretched the lead to 14-3 with a beautiful 40-yard pass to Brandin Cooks, who beat Bryce Hall on the play.
Wilson’s erratic first-half play continued with throws over Tevin Coleman’s head and too far in front of a wide-open Moore.
The defense got a stop and the Jets were finally able to put a drive together at the end of the second quarter. Mike LaFleur called a nice drive with plenty of short, easy passes for Wilson. A roughing the passer penalty also helped the Jets move down the field. They went 70 yards on 10 plays, capping it off with a 2-yard touchdown from Austin Walter. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson then ran in the two-point conversion to cut into the Texans’ lead 14-11 before halftime.
LaFleur continued to push the right buttons at the start of the second half. He dialed up a 22-yard throw from Wilson to Moore that was Wilson’s best throw of the game. LaFleur also went run heavy and the Jets moved the ball down the field.
Another Texans’ penalty bailed the Jets out. After Wilson failed to hit Ryan Griffin in the back of the end zone, the Jets tried a field goal but Texans defensive lineman Ross Blacklock was penalized for leverage after he tried to jump off of a Jets lineman. The penalty gave the Jets a fresh set of downs at the Texans’ 8-yard line.
Wilson scored his first rushing touchdown after another Blacklock penalty gave the Jets the ball at the 4. Wilson’s scamper made it 18-14 with 7:51 left in the third quarter.
The Jets and Texans both missed field goals in the second half as the teams showed why they are both near the bottom of the league.
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