Zach Wilson nearly led his fourth fourth-quarter comeback of the season during the Sunday night matchup between the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders.
Instead, the embattled Jets quarterback is enduring even more scrutiny after a costly interception short circuited a drive that reached the Raiders red zone late in the game.
With New York trailing 16-12 and facing a second-and-8 from the Las Vegas 20 with just under a minute and a half to play, Wilson tried to throw to Allen Lazard at the first-down marker.
Raiders linebacker Robert Spillane stepped in front of the pass, though, and forced the first Jets turnover of the night, returning the pick to the Las Vegas 40.
That ended a Jets drive that covered 56 yards in 11 plays and put New York in position to steal a win — the possession started after the Jets defense forced a turnover deep in New York territory when Las Vegas had the chance to pull the game away midway through the final quarter.
Prior to the interception, Wilson had completed 8 of 10 passes for 56 yards on the drive.
“I’ve got to be better there,” Wilson said of the interception. “I knew (Spillane) was the guy that had to get there, so I tried to beat him with the ball. He made an unbelievable play, but I’ve got to see that obviously.
“... To throw an interception to lose a game sucks, I hate that. I gotta be better for the guys, for the team, everyone battling.”
New York ended up having one more chance to score, getting the ball back at its own 20 with just under a minute to play and with one timeout (after the Raiders threw incomplete on third down, allowing the Jets to preserve a timeout).
Wilson, the former BYU quarterback, got the Jets into position to try a Hail Mary pass, after hitting tight end Tyler Conklin for a 27-yard gain to move the ball to the Raiders 44 with 13 seconds to play.
After an incomplete pass ran the clock down to five seconds, Wilson took the final snap of the night, evaded a handful of Raiders defenders and spun out of the pocket — running away from a pursuing Maxx Crosby before launching a pass on the run.
The ball reached the end zone, but no Jets were able to come down with a pass that went into a sea of players from both sides, ending the game in a 16-12 Raiders win.
It was the second straight disappointing loss for the Jets in primetime, after a 27-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.
New York has now gone 11 straight quarters without scoring a touchdown and last had a multi-play touchdown-scoring possession six weeks ago.
Wilson, who has struggled to spark better play out of the New York offense since taking over for an injured Aaron Rodgers in the season opener, ended up completing 23 of 39 passes for 263 yards. He also ran for a team-high 54 yards.
“I thought he did alright. There’s obviously a couple plays that I’m sure he wants back,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson’s performance. “I thought he moved around the pocket well, I thought he picked up some good yards with his legs.
“... To give a full assessment on Zach, I think it would be fair to ask everyone around him to play a little bit better, especially with the penalties.”
But it was, again, the Jets’ inability to finish drives that doomed a team that heavily relies on defense to keep it in games.
New York scored field goals on each of its first three possessions, though penalty issues consistently played a significant role in ending Jets drives throughout the night.
New York had eight penalties for 83 yards in the game.
“It literally feels like every good play we have is getting called back and it’s so frustrating because you understand how important every single drive is,” Wilson said.
Wilson had throws of 41 and 24 yards during the Jets’ first two drives, with the second one converting a third-and-four.
Early in the second quarter, Wilson appeared to scramble for a 23-yard touchdown on a third-and-7 play. On replay, though, it was ruled he stepped out at the 3-yard line.
It then looked like New York again scored a touchdown on the next play, but that 3-yard touchdown was nullified on a holding penalty.
Eventually, the net result of that possession was a field goal — the Jets’ third of the night.
Following those three first-half field goals, a Jets offense that has spent the majority of this season struggling to finish drives punted on five straight possessions — on each of those drives, New York never entered Las Vegas territory.
Then, after Las Vegas took a 16-9 lead early in the fourth quarter, Wilson connected with Breece Hall for a 35-yard pass on a screen play to move the Jets into Las Vegas territory.
Later in the drive, though, Wilson couldn’t connect with Dalvin Cook on a second-down pass from the Raiders 28.
The Jets ended up kicking their fourth field goal of the night, squandering another opportunity to put a touchdown on the board on a night where New York outgained Las Vegas in total yards, 365 to 274.
“What’s frustrating is the different ways that we’re creating to not get in the end zone,” Saleh said. “... We’re generating offense, we’re moving the ball but again, we’re just not finishing our drives the way we need to.”
It was that kind of night — and leaves the Jets sitting at 4-5 on the season, with postseason hopes continuing to dwindle.