What a wild show the Jets and Buccaneers put up

If you never saw another Jets game at MetLife Stadium, Sunday’s 28-24 Bucs victory would have been about as eventful an afternoon as you could imagine.

Just think of all that happened:

The Jets (now 4-12) came within seconds of disturbing defending Super Bowl champion Bucs (now 12-4).

• Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (born August 3, 1999) played the greatest player in the history of professional football (born 22 years to the day before) in almost the entire match. Yes, Wilson was better than Tom Brady most of the way.

• Antonio Brown, who was reinstated last week after being suspended for three matches for submitting a forged vaccination card, took off his jersey and shoulder pads on the sideline in the third quarter, threw his T-shirt in the stands and then ran through the goal zone and into the dressing room. Yes, a man stopped on his team with a full overview of more than 72,000 fans in what will almost certainly be the last match of a checkered career. In fact, by the end of the game, Brown had already been released from the team and had to find his own way back to Florida.

The Jets built a 24-10 lead in the third quarter against a team that could become the first since Brady’s 2003-04 Patriots to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

• Although Tampa Bay came back to 24-20 midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets almost put the game away after the Bucs had exhausted their full number of timeouts.

And then, on a game to be added to the decades-long list of Jets accidents, a colossal mistake communication between the coaching staff and Wilson resulted in a messy fourth-and-2 quarterback sneak on the Bucs’ 7th down would have ended the game; instead, Wilson made the fateful choice to try the sneak instead of handing over to Braxton Berrios on an end-around that would almost certainly have gotten the first down and maybe a touchdown.

• And, of course, another magical drive for the 44-year-old Brady, who drove the Bucs 93 yards to win the score with 15 seconds left of regulation – a 33-yard pass to Cyril Grayson, a wide receiver who had never played college football , but this afternoon became the latest contributor to Brady’s travel show in a dramatic victory.

It was just as eventful a regular football game as you will ever see. And if this was to be Brady’s last time playing the Jets, it was one last reminder of all the punitive losses he’s delivered while playing the previous two decades in New England.

After it was over, the Jets moved into mostly stunned silence, with coach Robert Saleh regretting the result and falling on his sword over the failed attempt at fourth down.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re going to talk about the last course of events, but I thought our guys were excellent,” Saleh said. “They deserve better. They won that match. We have to be better for our players.”

No argument there. Not only did Wilson fail to deliver on the sneak, but it came after a timeout, meaning there was absolutely no excuse for Saleh or, more likely, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur explicitly failed to ask Wilson to give the ball to Berrios at the end around noon. . It’s a game Bucs had consistently failed to defend properly, and chances are it would have worked in that situation. And if that were the case, the game would be over.

Instead, the Jets gave Brady one more chance, and – as he has so often done throughout his legendary 22-year career – he took advantage of running the Bucs almost the entire field, closing it with a perfect pass to a receiver so rarely used , that he was not even listed on the team’s depth chart.

But when Brown had left the field in a mood, Brady simply found another man who was on the receiving end of the winning pass.

The Jets can at least comfort themselves with the way they played, even though they lost. They went toe-to-toe with champs, they played through a host of injuries to the receiver and on the offensive and defensive lines, and they almost triggered an astonishing disruption of Brady and the defending champions.

“It was a pity, but I thought [there were] so many great learning experiences, “said Wilson, who was 19-for-33 for 234 yards and a touchdown pass to Berrios.” Right now as a team, all we need to understand was what we’re working for in the future. ”

Wilson is at the center of that future and he has shown a verifiable improvement since returning from a knee injury. He has played four games in a row without throwing an interception, and his command over the attack was mostly excellent on Sunday. That it came against the quarterback of all time was even more impressive.

Wilson was at least partially lifted by his coaches, even though he took the blame for not getting enough yardage on the failed quarterback sneak.

“A farm … it goes to our advantage [on the sneak], and the game is over, “he said.” Can’t get too down on yourself. That’s exactly what we needed. We had to give those guys a fight. ”

What they need now is to take the crucial moments of the game and turn them to their advantage. The margin of error in this league is razor sharp and only the good teams find a way to win with the game on the line. There is no telling whether the Jets will master these situations in the years to come, but having this game in their memory can only be helpful in moving forward.

Even though Saleh did not think so afterwards. In his mind, the NFL is a binary proposition.

“I do not believe in moral victories,” he said. “You win and you lose.”

True. But you’re still allowed to be encouraged by what happened last Sunday in one of the most eventful, drama-filled games you’ll ever see.

Maybe one day the Jets will be able to look back and listen to the lessons they need to learn after not putting the dagger in against the best football player going on the planet.