Robert Saleh: 'Anything is possible' at QB after Mike White leads Jets stunner over Bengals in place of Zach Wilson

·4 min read

The New York Jets may have found something in Mike White. 

The fourth-year pro who never played an NFL snap until taking over last week for an injured Zach Wilson exploded for a 400-yard passing day against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. His big day, along with an assist on a blown call by officials, led the Jets to a stunning 34-31 win over the previously scorching hot Cincinnati Bengals.

White got the the Jets off to an unfamiliar hot start. He completed all seven of his pass attempts on New York's opening drive that ended with a Michael Carter touchdown run to give the Jets an early 7-0 lead. The score was the first of any kind by the Jets in the first quarter all season. They never scored as much as a field goal in the first quarter in games started by Wilson.

New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) reacts after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Mike White, left, had himself a day in is first NFL start. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Things appeared to fall apart quickly for White. He followed up the touchdown drive with interceptions on New York's next two possessions, and the Bengals answered with 17 points to take a 17-7 lead. But White bounced back, throwing his first touchdown pass of the day to Braxton Berrios to cut New York's deficit to 17-14 before halftime. 

He kept it up in the fourth quarter, throwing the last two touchdowns of the game, including a 13-yard dart to Tyler Croft to take the lead with 3:45 remaining.

To cap things off, he caught the two-point conversion on a trick play to secure the game's final 34-31 margin.

Is White actually a threat to Zach Wilson?

The play elicited chants of White's name from a Jets crowd hungry for a win. He finished completing 37-of-45 pass attempts for 405 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. His performance will surely prompt some interesting debates in New York sports media this week when compared to the struggles of No. 2 pick Wilson who completed 57.5% of his passes while tallying four touchdowns and nine interceptions in a 1-5 Jets start before last week's PCL injury. 

Wilson is slated to return within weeks from his knee injury and seemingly should be the unquestioned starter considering his pedigree and Jets' investment of draft capital. But if White — a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft — continues to thrive in his absence, tough decisions will be looming in New York.

Head coach Robert Saleh ensured as much with his postgame comments, telling reporters that "anything is possible" at quarterback if White continues to thrive.

Big blow for survivor pool players

The upset dealt a massive blow to Yahoo Sports survivor pool players, 48.44% of whom on Yahoo Sports picked the Bengals in Week 8. The previously 1-5 Jets were 11.5-point underdogs

Jets win not without controversy

The Jets were allowed to run out the fourth-quarter clock thanks to a blown call by the officials. With 2:00 remaining, White looked to running back Ty Johnson in the flat on third-and-11. Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton tackled him for a loss, which should have set the Jets up to punt.

But officials flagged Hilton for unnecessary roughness. Hilton and Johnson made helmet-to-helmet contact on the play, which drew the flag. 

But replay shows that Johnson was the one who clearly initiated contact. 

Hilton went low in an attempt to secure a legal tackle near Johnson's thigh pads. But at the last second, Johnson lowered his head, creating the dangerous contact that football is desperate to legislate out of the game. 

The unnecessary roughness flag wasn't the problem on the play. It was that officials penalized Hilton instead of Johnson.

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