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New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson battles the ‘Mahomes Effect’ – New York Jets Blog



FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In the worst game of his life, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson made one of the most improbable completions of the NFL season.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 2 blowout loss to the New England Patriots, who intercepted four of his first 10 pass attempts, Wilson composed himself and fired a 27-yarder to Braxton Berrios on a deep corner route against a Cover-2 defense — over the cornerback and underneath the safety. Considering all the factors — air distance, time to throw and amount of separation from receiver to closest defender (less than one yard) — the completion probability was 14%, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Of the 4,366 complete passes through six weeks, only five had a lower completion probability than Wilson-to-Berrios. That throw, a straight dropback with no schoolyard improv, showed Wilson can be an effective pocket passer. What he has yet to demonstrate is the ability to do it on a consistent basis.

Industry insiders wonder if it’s a case of the “Mahomes Effect” — a young quarterback trying to make spectacular, off-platform throws that wind up as viral videos on social media. Wilson played that way at BYU, drawing comparisons to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but he can’t live in that world as a professional. Heck, even the great Mahomes is having problems this season with turnovers (eight picks).

Five games is a small sample size for any rookie, let alone a quarterback, but the league has seen enough of Wilson to form two takeaways:

  1. The dude has special talent.

  2. He’s still learning how — and when — to use it.

The second overall pick is struggling. His interception total (nine) leads the league, his completion percentage (57.3) is 31st out of 32 qualified passers and his Total QBR (22.6) ranks 32nd, trailing four other rookie qualifiers. He has 32 more pass attempts than unheralded rookie Davis Mills, the Houston Texans‘ third-round pick, but one fewer touchdown pass (four).

“Zach is what I thought he’d be,” one AFC scout said. “The game is moving fast for him, which is normal. It’s hard to make plays in both phases without (tackle Mekhi) Becton. He’s inaccurate, but still a gunslinger.”

Outside the phone booth, meaning the confines of a congested pocket, Wilson can be Superman. He turns designed rollouts and improvised scrambles into highlight-film plays. But inside the phone booth, he’s Clark Kent — a little klutzy and not nearly as dynamic as his alter ego. The stats back it up:

Inside the pocket: He’s 88-for-141 (62.4%) for 956 yards, two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a league-low 19.8 QBR, by far the worst among qualified passers, per ESPN Stats & Information data.

Outside the pocket: He’s 10-for-30 (33.3%) for 161 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 38.0 QBR (20th out of 32) — not great, but proportionately better than his efficiency in the pocket.

Former NFL defensive back and current ESPN analyst Matt Bowen is encouraged because there are “so many signs on tape of his natural traits as a thrower,” confirming the pre-draft hype, but he believes Wilson still is outgrowing some college habits.

“From a coaching perspective, you’re saying, ‘OK, this young quarterback is extremely talented. Now we have to refine some of the inexperience you’re naturally going to expect and some of the negatives we see on tape that he carried over from college,'” Bowen said. “In some instances, he reverts back to some things he did at the college level at BYU.

“There’s a lot of unnecessary movement. His feet are constantly moving. Look, you want your quarterback to be a mover within the pocket, but I think there are times when he puts himself on an unstable throwing platform. I think he did that in college because he could. Simply that: Because he could. He was more talented than the majority of the competition he faced. That gets you in trouble at times on this level.”

Bowen said Wilson must find a balance, meaning he must learn to escape the pocket only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, he will disrupt the timing of the pass routes and eliminate his backside reads.

Instead of escaping, he should try to slide and reset within the pocket, Bowen said. Wilson made a concerted effort to do that in training camp, executing the plays the way they were drawn up. He figured that was the best way to learn the offense, knowing he could always fall back on his off-platform instincts if all else fails.

Bowen pointed to Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, who, in the same offensive system, needed a year to get comfortable. In 2019, his first season under coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers too often played “outside the structure” of the scheme, according to Bowen. He still played well — come on, he’s Aaron Rodgers, right? — but followed with an MVP performance in 2020.

Keep that in mind when evaluating Wilson, who was 6 years old when Rodgers broke into the league.

“Zach has a lot of talent, a lot of potential,” said a defensive player who faced the Jets this season. “He’s athletic as hell and you can tell the dude’s arm strength is top tier. I mean, he can make damn near every throw on the field and make it look effortless. I definitely think he could be somewhat like [Buffalo Bills quarterback] Josh Allen in the future.”

Reminded that Wilson played poorly in their game, the defensive player said, “Other things have to work in his favor. The O-line has to hold up for him and give him a little time to feel confident back there. The wide receivers have to get open and also catch the ball when they get open. The scheme has to fit the player. It’s more than just him and his play. I’m not saying the Jets don’t have all those things. I would just say it’s not him as an individual that’s not working right now.”

It’s funny he mentioned Allen. Statistically, Wilson’s first five starts are eerily similar to Allen’s first five in 2018, as Jets coach Robert Saleh pointed out.

Wilson, who spent time over the bye week working with his personal coach, former NFL quarterback John Beck, said he’s “overthinking” some of his throws, especially the so-called gimmes. His mind has to be spinning. First came the edict from his coaches to be “boring.” Now he’s in the “let ‘er rip” mode, confident he can raise his efficiency over the final 12 games.

It won’t take long to find out if he’s right. Up next is a rematch against the Patriots on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at Gillette Stadium, where Wilson will have an opportunity to show he’s not the same overwhelmed rookie he was in Week 2.

“I know it can be frustrating sometimes when we’re looking at some of these things and it’s like, ‘God, he should be making these throws,'” Saleh said. “It’s going to start clicking.”

Bowen ticked off a handful of plays in which Wilson demonstrated next-level skill and awareness. The most recent example came in the Week 5 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a 27-yard completion to Denzel Mims on an in-breaking route in the middle of zone coverage. It was a good read, good anticipation and “a big-time throw,” Bowen said.

It came from the pocket, not on one of his schoolyard scrambles. Few quarterbacks have the ability to throw a 50-yard dime while running at full speed, as Wilson has done on a couple of occasions. It’s a gift.

And, sometimes, a curse.

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach



CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title – Cincinnati Bengals Blog



CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

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Josh Allen, Dawson Knox produce fireworks for Buffalo Bills in freezing weather vs. Patriots



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills started off Saturday night’s wild-card matchup against the New England Patriots with a bang. Quarterback Josh Allen found tight end Dawson Knox for an impressive score in the back of the end zone, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Allen was given plenty of time to scramble behind his offensive line (9.64 seconds), but initially it looked like none of his options downfield were open. The quarterback moved to his right and appeared to be throwing it out of bounds, but Knox made an impressive toe-tap grab for the score. The 32.1 run yards traveled before passing are the most on any touchdown of Allen’s career. The pass had a completion percentage of 18.4%, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the second-most-improbable passing touchdown of his career.

It was the first passing touchdown in the past five playoffs in which a quarterback took at least nine seconds to throw, per Next Gen Stats.

The scored capped off a nine-play, 70-yard drive that included Allen rushing for 41 yards on two carries.

On the Patriots’ ensuing drive, quarterback Mac Jones moved the ball downfield and appeared to have a touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Safety Micah Hyde, however, had other ideas and jumped in front of Agholor for an impressive interception in the end zone.

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