Jets' Mike White scores big with teammates, if not against Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two weeks ago, New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson stood in front of his locker after a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots, tearing apart the offense after an utterly inept performance. He didn't name names, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines. Much of his frustration appeared directed at quarterback Zach Wilson.

Three days later, Wilson was benched.

Let's juxtapose that scene with what occurred in the locker room Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Jets lost a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Vikings 29-22. There was Wilson once again, holding court before a crowd of reporters. Yes, he was upset with the outcome, but not his quarterback. The talented rookie delivered an iron-clad endorsement of Mike White, who became only the fourth Jets quarterback in the past 25 years to throw for 300 yards in back-to-back games.

"He was out there, controlling the huddle, never letting the moment get too big," Wilson said. "It was cool to see. Looking back on it now, it’s cool to think about. I know I'd go to war for that boy. He's got something special about him."

White didn't play a flawless game -- far from it. He threw two interceptions and struggled to get his team in the end zone -- going 1-for-6 in the red zone -- which is the ultimate job of every quarterback. But it was clear from the postgame vibe -- highlighted by Wilson's testimonial -- that White strengthened his hold on the quarterback position in the eyes of his teammates.

In his fifth career start, only his second on the road, White nearly rallied the Jets from a 20-3 deficit. He got them to the 1-yard line on their penultimate possession before hitting the imaginary brick wall on the goal line that stymied the offense most of the day.

Another three feet. That's all he needed for a potential miracle win. They would've been writing poems about White, everybody's favorite underdog, if he had pulled it off. But the former QB3-turned QB2-turned QB1 showed plenty of moxie in the second half.

"I thought Mike did a great job," coach Robert Saleh said. "There was a little of some ups and downs, like normal in a football game. They're a good football team, but I thought he kept his composure, stayed within the game, made some big, big throws."

White threw a lot (31-for-57), which isn't ideal, but amassed 369 passing yards -- including 248 in the second half. He made history, not the good kind, though -- the most passing yards in franchise history without a touchdown pass. The "mark" was held by Joe Namath, who did it with 341 yards in a 1968 loss to the Denver Broncos -- the year the Jets went to their only Super Bowl.

In two starts, White has developed something special with Wilson, who is playing like a serious contender for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. With White slinging the ball, Wilson has 13 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including an 8-for-162 game against the Vikings' overmatched secondary -- the most yards for any Jets receiver since Eric Decker's 221 in 2014.

Zach Wilson hasn't had that kind of chemistry with any receiver because of his inability to operate a consistent passing attack. He has 1,279 yards in seven starts -- 183 per game. White has 684 in two starts -- 342 per game.

"Mike White does a good job for them," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "He gets the ball to his guys and keeps it pretty clean."

Saleh hasn't declared White the permanent starter, saying he will go back to Wilson "when he's ready to roll" -- a vague statement that creates questions. Reality says it's White's job to lose. Publicly, Saleh probably will let it play out organically, but know this: He might have a mutiny in the locker room if he yanks White anytime soon.

In a possible show of solidarity, White and several offensive players showed up for the game wearing Anaheim Mighty Ducks hockey jerseys. (The movie was filmed in Minneapolis.) On Saturday, a few players wore "Mike F'n White" T-shirts.

"He's a baller, obviously," said wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who participated in both fashion statements.

Let's not mistake guts with precision, though. White didn't get it done in the red zone, completing only six of 17 passes for 24 yards and an interception. The 1-for-6 performance was their worst red zone percentage on six possessions since 2014. With only average efficiency, they would've hung 40 on the Vikings.

There was some curious playcalling in the red zone, along with a drop by Berrios on a fourth-down pass in the end zone -- a tough play, but one he felt he should've made. White took the heat, saying he threw it slightly behind Berrios on his sidearm flick.

"That’s not on him -- that’s on me," Berrios said. "It’s fourth down. He has everything in his face, the rush coming. He’s seeing bodies flying everywhere. He put it where I should’ve got it. So, yeah, that one's on me."

White was incomplete on his last six attempts in the red zone -- six!

"My job as a quarterback is put our team in the best position, and that's scoring in the red zone," White said. "So it starts with me."

He took accountability, which no doubt scored points with his teammates. It was the perfect answer to an imperfectly impressive day.