MINNEAPOLIS — The Jets ruined their chances of really establishing themselves as a playoff contender with their play in the red zone on Sunday. Their last two drives ended at the 1-yard line.
Mike White’s final pass was intercepted by Camryn Bynum at the Vikings’ 1 in the final seconds, spoiling the Jets’ hopes of an upset as Minnesota won, 27-22, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
During the previous series, Braxton Berrios dropped a 1-yard touchdown pass that would have given the Jets the lead.
This was the Jets’ first important December game since 2015, and they showed playoff mettle by rallying from a 20-3 deficit on the road, but they wound up taking a crushing defeat against one of the NFL’s best teams.
“We stared adversity straight in the face and responded,” White said. “We just got to respond better.”
The Jets (7-5) still are the seventh seed in the AFC playoff race and have another huge game Sunday at Buffalo. They’ll need to fix their red-zone issues before then.
White, starting for the second straight game, was 31-for-57 for 369 yards and two interceptions. It was the most passing yards by a Jets quarterback in a game with zero touchdown passes in franchise history.
The Jets got off to a slow start offensively, but they got in the red zone on all six of their drives in the second half. However, they scored only one touchdown against the Vikings (10-2), who came in as the NFL’s lowest-ranked passing defense.
Overall, the Jets were 1-for-6 in red-zone opportunities and 1-for-3 on goal-to-go situations. A block-in-the-back penalty by George Fant hurt one of the goal-to-go chances. White was 6-for-17 for 24 yards and one interception in the red zone.
The Jets ran 83 plays and totaled 486 yards. The one touchdown was by White, a 1-yard run on fourth down that initially was ruled short. The call was reversed after Robert Saleh challenged it.
“My job as a quarterback is to put our team in the best position,” White said. “That’s scoring when we’re in the red zone. It starts with me. I got to figure out how to put the ball in the end zone. If we do that, I think we win the game.”
Greg Zuerlein was 5-for-5 on field-goal tries for the Jets, including a franchise-record 60-yarder just before halftime.
“Today was the definition of a game of inches over and over and over,” receiver Garrett Wilson said. “It’s frustrating to lose a game of inches.”
Wilson was brilliant, catching eight passes for 162 yards and nearly scoring on one. Talk about a game of inches — he stepped out of bounds at the 11 on a 60-yard catch-and-run. That drive ended with a field goal.
Corey Davis had five catches for 85 yards. Running back Zonovan Knight rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries.
Kirk Cousins completed 21 of 35 passes for 173 yards and one touchdown for the Vikings. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison each had a rushing touchdown.
Justin Jefferson was held to 45 yards receiving but caught a 10-yard touchdown pass, beating D.J. Reed in the corner of the end zone to give Minnesota a 27-15 lead with 8:33 left in the game.
The Jets’ defense had some breakdowns, giving up more than 20 points for the first time since Week 3 and allowing the Vikings to score on all three of their red-zone chances. But the offense was kicking itself for squandering all those opportunities, especially Berrios.
“I just got to make the play,” he said.
The Jets had second-and-goal from the 1 and had three chances to get in the end zone with less than two minutes to go. Knight was stopped for no gain on second down and White threw an incomplete pass on third.
On fourth down, White threw the ball a little bit behind Berrios. He had it and then dropped it with 1:43 remaining.
“Mike put it in the only place he could,” Berrios said. “You got to come down with that one.”
The defense gave White and the Jets one more opportunity, though, giving up just a yard and forcing a three-and-out.
The Jets started their final drive with 1:19 left from the Vikings’ 43 and with no timeouts remaining. White hit Ty Johnson for a 6-yard gain, then found Wilson for an 18-yard catch. They had first-and-10 from the 19 with 32 seconds to go.
White threw incomplete on first, second and third down. On fourth down, he had to get rid of the ball with the pocket closing and fired it toward Davis, but Bynum stepped in front of it at the 1 for the interception.
“The safety just drove on Corey,” White said. “I thought at the time he was our best option. Felt the rush get on me. I didn’t want to finish with the ball in my hands. I just wanted to give our guy an opportunity and see what happens.”