Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets reacts after throwing a...

Zach Wilson #2 of the Jets reacts after throwing a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Losing his starting job stung Zach Wilson, but he won back teammates by how he handled himself after his demotion.

Now Wilson has to prove he can win some important games.

Wilson started for the second consecutive game Thursday night after being inactive the three previous games. The Jets were in a must-win situation when they faced Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville in their home finale at MetLife Stadium.

The Jets had lost three straight games, and another loss would make their dwindling playoff chances even slimmer. They entered the game 7-7 and in ninth place in the AFC. The top seven teams make the playoffs. The Jets have two games remaining after Thursday, but they could mean very little without a win over Jacksonville.

This was a big moment for Wilson. He has not played near the level of Lawrence, who was drafted No. 1 last year. Wilson, drafted one spot after Lawrence, probably wouldn’t be playing if Mike White hadn’t fractured his ribs two games ago or if White had been cleared for contact. But the Jets are not giving up on Wilson — yet.

Robert Saleh said as much this week, and C.J. Mosley and Duane Brown came to Wilson’s defense, acknowledging that he’s trying to get better as a player and a teammate.

Wilson addressed the team days after the Jets’ 10-3 loss in New England last month and apologized for his performance and not taking accountability for letting down the defense.

Mosley said it was an important moment for Wilson and the locker room. The linebacker was happy the Jets didn’t fracture.

“After everything that happened the first time, it could have went a lot worse than what it was,” Mosley said. “He spoke to the team. He handled everything the right way. We could have went about that the wrong way. Anybody on defense could have said something that could have caused a whole ’nother chain reaction. Everybody kept professional. Everybody understood. He understood, which is most important.

“I really feel that he was meant to be here for a reason. He believes he’s a quality starter. He wants to be a quality starter. You could see it every day he comes to work. You can see it in his eyes. You heard the pain when he had to go down. I just hope he keeps building and he keeps believing in himself and everybody here keeps believing in him.”

Wilson, who had been running the scout team for three weeks while working on his lower-body fundamentals, had some good moments in his return last week against Detroit. For the most part, though, it was same old, same old. Wilson’s mechanics appear to need more than three weeks of work to fix.

He threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns but also made a bad decision on a costly interception and missed several receivers.

Brown was impressed with how “carefree” Wilson was throughout the week and in the game and said the offensive line needed to be better for Wilson.

“At that position with everything that has happened, you could kind of be really uptight,” Brown said. “I think he just had the attitude of just go out and play, put his best foot forward and whatever happens happens. I thought he played well.

“He’ll be fine,” Brown added. “He’ll be fine. He understands the kind of talent he has. I tell him just focus on the next play. Outside of that, it’s my job and it’s our job up front to help him. That’s all I really care about is doing my job and let him feel comfortable back there to do his.”

White might be cleared and able to play against Seattle on New Year’s Day in the Jets’ next game. Things could get very interesting then.

Saleh has said Wilson is the future of the franchise, but the offense definitely ran smoother and more effectively with White running it. The Jets have some tough decisions to make at quarterback not only for the remainder of this season but for the future.

During his team-imposed “reset,” Wilson said he reached out to former NFL quarterbacks Steve Young, Kurt Warner and Drew Brees for advice. He also said he found the “fun” in football again and started making sure he enjoyed every moment he had playing with his teammates.

“I think in my first year and a half, I just realized how much of a business this really is,” Wilson said. “I played football my entire life for the fun of it and how fun it is. Sometimes, mo’ money, mo’ problems, right?

“For me, it’s a ‘how can I just bring that fun back? How can I just enjoy being here?’ And through that reset process, how can I go out to a practice and just be like, you know what, I’m just going to enjoy being out here and throwing the ball around, doing things that I love to do and spending time with the guys because that’s truly the most important part.”

Winning big games, too.

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