Mike White shocks the NFL and the Bengals in Jets' comeback win
Mike White really is a stud.
That’s how Jets running back Ty Johnson described him during the week, and White lived up to that billing on Sunday in his first NFL start. That left Johnson using some more colorful terms for his teammate.
Replacing injured rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, White did a little of everything and led the Jets to an improbable and thrilling 34-31 comeback victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets (2-5) scored 14 points during a 51-second span late in the fourth quarter. The clincher was a 13-yard touchdown pass from White to tight end Tyler Kroft with 3:45 to go.
"He’s a savage," Johnson said of White. "He’s a dog. He’s an animal. I said it on Monday, I said it again. I’m going to keep saying it. I expect the best of him, and he brought his best. I knew he was going to have a game. I was excited for him. I told him before the game, ‘You’re a gunslinger. Let’s ride.’ "
Late in the game, the fans chanted "Mike White!" after he threw the TD pass to Kroft and caught the two-point conversion pass. The chants continued during the closing drive, which ended with White kneeling with the Jets in victory formation.
White completed his first 11 passes and finished 37-for-45 for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
White also showed his toughness. He left the game in the second half after getting drilled in the back and falling into another player. He hurt his neck, was checked for a concussion and returned to finish off his gem.
"Mike White was awesome today," Robert Saleh said.
A fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2018 out of Western Kentucky, White never played an NFL game before last week, when Wilson left with a knee injury. Sunday’s performance could spark a quarterback controversy.
Wilson is out two to four weeks with a sprained right PCL, and when Saleh was asked if White could continue to lead the Jets after Wilson returns, he said, "Anything is possible."
Indeed. No one outside of the Jets’ building could have seen this performance coming.
White led the Jets to a touchdown on their first possession. They hadn’t scored in the first quarter this season.
His 37 completions were the most by a quarterback making his first NFL start and his 405 yards were the second-most by a QB in his first start since 1950. He became the first Jet to throw for more than 400 yards since Vinny Testaverde in 2000.
"I have an immense amount of faith in myself, and I think I can go out there and execute the offense and move the offense, and today was just an affirmation of it," White said. "In my mind, I knew I was confident enough to be able to execute an offense."
Rookie Michael Carter had 172 scrimmage yards and ran for an 8-yard touchdown. Johnson had 71 receiving yards, including a 19-yard touchdown, and Braxton Berrios caught an 8-yard TD pass.
Joe Burrow threw three touchdown passes for the Bengals (5-3). Bengals playmaking receiver Ja’Marr Chase had only three catches for 32 yards. Chase had 201 receiving yards last week against the Ravens.
After Johnson’s touchdown with 4:36 left made it 31-26 — the Jets failed on their two-point try — the defense got a quick and enormous takeaway.
Shaq Lawson deflected Burrow’s pass, intercepted it and returned it to the Bengals’ 14. It was the Jets’ first interception of the season. Two plays later, White hit Kroft to put the Jets on top.
"[Lawson] made a huge play," Saleh said. "Then for the offense to go finish it and go score, it was huge and the deciding factor."
The Jets converted the two-point conversion with a trick play. White handed it to Elijah Moore, who pitched to Jamison Crowder, who threw it to White in the end zone to give the Jets the three-point lead.
"The things that went through my mind were: ‘Just don’t drop it. Don’t drop it. You’re in front of everybody. Don’t drop it,’ " White said. "It was awesome."
The Jets’ defense — which drove the Bengals back 14 yards on four plays after Cincinnati had first-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter — forced a punt and White got the ball back with 2:08 left at the Jets’ 21. They got a gigantic unnecessary roughness call on third down when Mike Hilton was charged with leading with his head in tackling Johnson. Three plays later, White picked up a first down on a quarterback sneak to clinch the game.
"There’s going to be days when we look like we should be a playoff team, contending for a Super Bowl championship," Saleh said. "And there’s going to be days when we don’t look like we belong on a football field. That’s youth.
That’s this young team that’s growing.
"This is going to be a group that can do something. At the same time, is it the roller-coaster ride we’ve been talking about since training camp? Absolutely. Is it something to build off of? Heck, yeah."
Mike White rode in and saved the Jets with these numbers in his first NFL start:
Comp. Pct. 82.2
Long Gain 26
QB Rating 107.9