The way Monday night's game played out after Aaron Rodgers' injury, which was reportedly confirmed to be a season-ending Achilles tear, might make the New York Jets and their fans even sadder in the long run. That's for another day.
The Jets pulled off a stunning 22-16 overtime win on rookie Xavier Gipson's electric punt return for a touchdown. Whatever happens next, that will be a fun highlight to remember from this season.
"What would the Jets look like with competent quarterback play?" was a question that was asked often last season and presumably answered by trading for Rodgers this offseason. And suddenly, Rodgers went down with an injury and it was 2022 all over again. The defense was amazing and the Zach Wilson-led offense was a mess.
The Jets might have won easily had Rodgers not gotten hurt and played at his expected level. Instead, the Jets struggled for everything they got while the defense kept them in the game. It'll be like that as long as Rodgers is out. The initial prognosis wasn't good, Jets coach Robert Saleh said, as the team believes it is an injury to Rodgers' Achilles tendon. Jets fans might wonder often this season how good they could have been if Rodgers was healthy. They somehow beat the Bills, a Super Bowl contender, without him.
The Jets struggled offensively on Monday night without Rodgers. Even when the Bills were punting in overtime, it was questionable if the Jets offense could put together a drive. Gipson, an undrafted rookie out of Stephen F. Austin, made sure it didn't matter with a 65-yard walk-off winner.
Aaron Rodgers goes down early
The scope of the Jets' entire season potentially changed less than five minutes into the Rodgers era.
Rodgers was sacked by Bills linebacker Leonard Floyd on his fourth snap with the Jets. He got up, but then took a seat, which signaled the Jets training staff to come check on him. He was helped off, then carted back to the locker room, and there was a lot of gloom at MetLife Stadium. Rodgers was ruled out during the second quarter with what the team initially termed an ankle injury.
Wilson had been a big disappointment after being the second pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. He looked bad again on Monday night until he finally made some plays in the fourth quarter. Jets fans probably were dreading the rest of the season, with the defense playing great and praying for the offense to make a play. Until the fourth quarter, the Jets got a couple big runs from Breece Hall but only had two field goals.
The defense kept making plays and the offense finally came through. In a 13-6 game, the defense got turnovers on back-to-back drives.
And finally, the Jets offense moved the ball.
Josh Allen struggles vs. Jets
The Bills didn't play great. Josh Allen threw three interceptions to safety Jordan Whitehead. The third one opened the door for the Jets to tie the game.
The Jets trailed 13-6 when Whitehead got his third interception with 9:43 left. They hadn't scored a touchdown and it didn't seem like one was possible with how Wilson had been playing. But Wilson made a big third-and-5 play under pressure, getting the ball out to Allen Lazard for 24 yards. Then Wilson hit Garrett Wilson on another third down. Wilson capped the drive with an incredible, juggling catch in the end zone for a touchdown. The Jets had improbably tied the game.
It was an effort worth cheering after a couple hours of misery. And then, with less than five minutes left in regulation, the Jets were in position to pull off a stunning win. Allen lost a fumble after he bobbled a snap. The Jets recovered in field-goal range.
They made a bold call to go for it on fourth-and-1, and Wilson converted a quarterback sneak. That allowed the Jets to keep milking the clock. Greg Zuerlein hit a field goal to give them an improbable lead with 1:48 left.
That was a lot of time. Allen hadn't played well but he's still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Bills started moving the ball, then overcame an offensive pass interference call on Stefon Diggs to get back in field-goal range. Tyler Bass came on with six seconds left for a 50-yard field goal attempt, and his kick went in after clanging off the left upright. The game moved to overtime.
Overtime didn't last long. The Bills went three-and-out, with the Jets defense coming up big yet again. Then Gipson made his fantastic return, cutting back to the left and taking it to the end zone for the walk-off win.
The night started with a horrible sight for Jets fans and ended with a great highlight. Now the Jets wonder and worry about what happens next.