Loud chants of “Mike White” filled MetLife Stadium several times during Sunday’s game. The quarterback, a folk hero in these parts, only added to his legend.
In his first start in more than a year, White threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Jets to a 31-10 victory over the Bears.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Playing football with your friends and guys you’ve been with for a couple of years — when it wasn’t my time to play, I’m super-supportive of them and having fun with them, too. To be out there and be a part of it and help the team win is always fun.”
The Bears (3-9) were without starting quarterback Justin Fields because of a shoulder injury, but this was the kind of lift and spark the Jets were looking for when they made the change from Zach Wilson to White.
The Jets (7-4) recorded 466 yards of offense on a rainy day and surpassed 30 points for the first time in six games. They scored the last 24 points after Chicago took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. White’s three TD passes matched Wilson’s total in the previous seven games.
“He did a great job,” Robert Saleh said. “He didn’t need to be anybody but Mike White. We didn’t need to turn into ‘The Greatest Show on Turf.’ We just wanted him to play within himself and play efficient. I thought he did that.”
Wilson, who threw for 77 yards and led the offense to three points against New England last week, was inactive Sunday. The Jets want him to spend extra time working on his fundamentals, particularly his footwork, with the stated intention of bringing him back later this season.
White could have a lot to say about that. The offense ran far differently compared to when Wilson was under center.
“He made the easy look easy,” Saleh said of White.
This was only his fourth career start. In his last one, he threw four interceptions in a loss to Buffalo last Nov. 14. White said he got caught in trying to play “hero ball” in that game and learned from it.
He was much more poised Sunday, playing the way he did when he threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Cincinnati in his first NFL start.
White finished 22-for-28 with no interceptions and a passer rating of 149.3 against the Bears. In the first half, he was 16-for-20 for 235 yards. He spread the ball around, completing passes to 10 different players and making some previously frustrated receivers happy. Wilson completed only nine passes the previous Sunday.
“I can’t say I expected him to go out and have a 149 passer rating, but I expected him to ball,” Garrett Wilson said.
The Jets’ impressive rookie receiver had a big game after being outspoken last week about the offensive struggles. Wilson caught five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder in the second quarter that gave the Jets a 14-10 lead.
Elijah Moore, who had been unhappy with his role, had his first touchdown reception. His 22-yard grab put the Jets up 24-10 in the third. Moore had two catches for 64 yards.
“We have a lot of really good players that are worthy of the ball,” Saleh said. “It’s good to see Elijah get some production, and same thing with all our receivers . . . We have a plethora of them. I thought he did a really good job of distributing the ball and [offensive coordinator] Mike LaFleur did a good job calling the game and opening up a lot of stuff for the guys.”
The Jets also got the running game going with 158 yards. Ty Johnson had a 32-yard touchdown run and rookie Zonovan Knight had 69 rushing yards in his NFL debut.
The Bears were in disarray before the kickoff. Former Jet Trevor Siemian was set to start but hurt his oblique during warm-ups. Nathan Peterman was announced instead, but Siemian wound up starting. He was 14-for-25 for 179 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
On the first series of the game, White hit Wilson for an 8-yard score for the Jets’ first opening-drive touchdown of the season.
“It was good for not only the offense but for the team, too, to respond from the week we had last week and get everybody’s confidence going,” White said.
The chants started then and got louder as the game continued and White made plays.
“It’s always cool,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and give you some quarterback cliche that I’m not focusing on that.”
The Jets’ defense started slowly. The Bears led 10-7 after their first two series, but it was all Jets after that. After they made a big stop on third-and-1, White threw the ball perfectly over a linebacker and connected with Wilson across the middle. He broke free for the 54-yard touchdown.
Wilson was a big fan of the “Mike White” chants.
“That was cool, man,” he said. “When you ball, he got what he deserved. I’m glad the fans saw what we all saw. He’s going out there balling and he deserved every bit of that chant he got.”
Mike White's passing numbers:
Comp. Pct. 78.6
QB Rating 149.3