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Zach Wilson’s two second-half touchdowns in NFL debut can’t mask Jets’ offensive struggles

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson watches his first NFL touchdown pass during the second half.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson watches his first NFL touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.
Nell Redmond, Associated Press

The Deseret News is providing live coverage from former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s first start as the New York Jets play at the Carolina Panthers. Follow along for updates throughout the day.

Zach Wilson led the New York Jets to a pair of impressive second-half touchdown drives, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a rocky first half as the Jets lost to the Carolina Panthers 19-14 on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

Wilson’s best drive was his last, when the former BYU quarterback led New York 93 yards in 10 plays to make it a one-score game when he threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis with 1:56 to play.

New York couldn’t convert an onside kick, though, and Carolina was able to run out the clock.

Zach Wilson final stats

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. QB rating Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. QB rating Rush Att. Yards
20 37 258 2 1 82.9 - -

For much of the game, the Jets offense looked anemic and had just 82 yards of total offense at halftime. Wilson was sacked six times, and New York lost its best offensive lineman, left tackle, Mekhi Becton, to injury in the third quarter. Wilson also threw a costly interception that led to the Panthers’ first score.

By the end of the day, there were some positives for Wilson and the Jets. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 draft completed 20 of 37 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and the interception, with much of those yards coming after the Jets fell behind by two scores.

His first scoring drive came in the third quarter, when Wilson capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Davis.

There’s plenty to improve, though, for a New York offense that finished with just 252 yards of total offense, was 4 of 13 on third downs and struggled to find much rhythm behind an offensive line that routinely struggled against the Panthers’ pressure.


Drive No. 12, starts at New York 7

Jets trail 19-8; drive starts 4:27, fourth quarter

Zach Wilson showed some moxie in the Jets’ latest drive, and New York still has some life.

Wilson completed his second touchdown pass to Corey Davis — this one an 8-yarder — and New York is within one score in thee final two minutes, though it’s a five-point game after the two-point conversion failed.

The former BYU quarterback completed 7 of 9 for 108 yards and the score on the drive. Wilson completed a 15-yard pass while standing in his own end zone and later connected with Braxton Berrios for 25 yards on a fourth-and-8 to keep the drive alive.

He followed that with a 40-yard pass to Denzel Mims while taking a hit to get New York inside the red zone at the Carolina 10. After takes a huge sack for a loss of 10 yards, Wilson got the Jets back inside the 10 on a 12-yard pass to Davis. That set up the touchdown pass on third-and-goal.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 12

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
7 9 108 1 - - -

Drive No. 11, starts at New York 25

Jets trail 19-8; drive starts 8:42, fourth quarter

After a nice first-down, 12-yard run to start the drive, the Jets quickly fell into bad habits. A dropped pass and another incompletion led to a third-and-10, and Zach Wilson was sacked as the Panthers defenders pinned their ears back and pressured the young quarterback.

New York couldn’t follow up its promising drive the previous possession with any rhythm, and now the Jets would need some major help to try and win this one after a brief ray of hope.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 11

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
0 2 - - - - -

Drive No. 10, starts at New York 30

Jets trail 16-0; drive starts 6:05, third quarter

Zach Wilson has his first NFL touchdown pass, and there is some excitement for the Jets. Wilson scrambled right and found Corey Davis for a 22-yard touchdown pass, giving New York some life on the team’s first promising drive of the year.

Wilson then scored running for a two-point conversion to make it a one-score game.

Wilson led the Jets on an eight-play, 70-yard drive for the score, and it was a nice possession for the former BYU quarterback. He was 4 of 4 for 57 yards on the drive, including a 20-yard strike to Davis to get New York to midfield. Later on he rolled out on third-and-2 and found tight end Ryan Griffin for an 8-yard gain and a first down to the Carolina 33.

Some of that excitement was tempered, though, as star left tackle Mekhi Becton was injured on the touchdown play. He later was carted off the field.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 10

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
4 4 57 1 - - -

Drive No. 9, starts at New York 27

Jets trail 16-0; drive starts 9:23, third quarter

The disastrous offense continues for Zach Wilson and the Jets. Wilson took a sack — after trying to scramble around for quite some time — on first down, and by third down, a 11-yard pass did not come close to a first down.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 9

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
2 2 12 - - - -

Drive No. 8, starts at New York 41

Jets trail 16-0; drive starts 13:20, third quarter

Another possession, another fruitless offensive attempt for the Jets. While New York converted its first third-down attempt thanks to a defensive pass interference call, Zach Wilson and the Jets couldn’t move the ball much. Wilson, in particular, looked shaky on the drive, and on a third-and-12, had a pass deflected at the line when he had an open receiver.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 8

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
1 4 -3 - - - -

Halftime analysis

Jets trail 16-0

That was an ugly half, especially on offense, for the moribund Jets.

Zach Wilson is off to a tough start to his NFL career, completing less than 50% of his passes in his first half of play. He also threw an interception, and had a couple other plays were turnovers could have happened.

Wilson isn’t getting much help. New York’s offensive line is getting overwhelmed on almost every play, and Wilson has been sacked three times.

New York has just 82 yards of total offense, compared to 272 for Carolina.

Zach Wilson stats, halftime

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. QB rating Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. QB rating Rush Att. Yards
6 16 84 - 1 29.2 - -

Drive No. 7, starts at New York 25

Jets trail 16-0; drive starts 0:35, second quarter

The Jets run out the clock to head into halftime.


Drive No. 6, starts at New York 25

Jets trail 9-0; drive starts 4:06, second quarter

It’s a quick three-and-out for the Jets, as Wilson was sacked on third-and-2. It’s been a very tough offensive outing for New York in this first half, and it’s started up front with an overmatched offensive line.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 6

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
1 2 8 - - - -

Drive No. 5, starts at New York 25

Jets trail 3-0; drive starts 7:26, second quarter

The Jets’ lack of a competent offensive line was on full display on this drive, as New York drove into Carolina territory but was stuffed short on a fourth-and-1 run play. Zach Wilson had a few good moments on the drive — he completed 3 of 5 passes for 34 yards — but also showed his youth, nearly throwing another interception, then fumbling the ball while being sacked before picking it up for a short loss.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 5

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
3 5 34 - - - -

Drive No. 4, starts at New York 9

Game tied 0-0; drive starts 11:30, second quarter

This drive showed the good and bad of a young quarterback. Zach Wilson threw his first interception as a pro, getting picked by Shaq Thompson on a pass over the middle near midfield on a play where the quarterback was throwing into double coverage.

It ended a promising drive after the Jets started at their own 9 following a Sam Darnold turnover on fourth down inside the red zone. Wilson’s turnover came just a few plays after he showed poise on a second-and-8, hitting Corey Davis on a nice crosser over the middle 15 yards downfield. Davis then turned on the jets to pick up 35 yards on the play. Still, the interception leaving a learning moment for the young Wilson.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 4

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
1 3 35 - 1 - -

Drive No. 3, starts at New York 15

Game tied 0-0; drive starts 4:37, first quarter

It wasn’t a three-and-out this time, but the Jets again failed to move the ball far after getting one first down on the ground. Zach Wilson was 0-for-2 passing on the drive, coming on second and third downs with 10 yards to go. He’s facing quite a bit of pressure, as the Panthers defense is owning the line battle against the Jets front. Wilson again went deep, this time on third down, but couldn’t connect with fellow rookie Elijah Moore.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 3

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
0 2 - - - - -

Drive No. 2, starts at New York 22

Game tied 0-0; drive starts 8:58, first quarter

The second drive was a quick three-and-out, as Zach Wilson went deep on two passes after a first-down rush, and neither pass was completed. Wilson threw behind Corey Davis on second down deep into Carolina territory — agonizingly close to a huge play — then had his attempt to Ty Johnson batted down on third down along the sideline. That leaves Wilson at 1 of 4 passing halfway through the first quarter.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 2

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
0 2 - - - - -

Drive No. 1, starts at New York 25

Game tied 0-0; drive starts 15:00, first quarter

Zach Wilson’s first drive didn’t go far, as the Jets picked up a first down but were then quickly stifled by the Panthers defense and penalties. Wilson was 1 of 2 passing with a 7-yard completion to tight end Ryan Griffin.

Zach Wilson stats, drive No. 1

Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
Comp. Att. Yards TD Int. Rush Att. Yards
1 2 7 - - - -

Pregame prep

Here are a few stories to get you ready for the game: