The Jets’ 34-31 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at MetLife Stadium was a shock to the fans of both teams and almost everyone that follows the NFL. The Jets were 1-5 and without their starting quarterback, rookie Zach Wilson, who has struggled early in his professional career and is sidelined for another few weeks with a PCL strain in his right knee sustained in a 54-13 loss to the New England Patriots on October 24th.
The Bengals came into the game 5-2, had one of the hottest QBs in the league in Joe Burrow, and had beaten one of the conference’s best teams, the Baltimore Ravens, 41-17 on the road the week before. But the Jets had a secret weapon in backup quarterback Mike White. Making his first pro start, the 26-year-old, drafted in the fifth round out of Western Kentucky by the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, went 37-45 for 405 yards, the most by a Jets QB since Vinny Testaverde threw for 481 yards on Christmas Eve in 2000, and had three passing touchdowns to become an overnight Jets hero, hearing the fans shouting his name.
“At first, I kind of had to listen again,” said White after the game. He asked himself in amazement “are they chanting my name?” It began early when he led the offense on their first score, a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard run by rookie running back Michael Carter at 6:22 of the opening quarter. Carter also had a breakout game, topping the Jets in rushing (77) and receiving (95) yards.
“Mike is fantastic,” said Jets head coach Robert Saleh, praising the Pembroke Pines, Florida native. “He’s poised. He showed it all throughout camp, all throughout OTAs, that he deserves to be one of those guys, and obviously, he showed it today.”
White wasn’t flawless, throwing two interceptions, but he gave both the offense and defense a much-needed confidence boost. It was obvious both units were feeding off his energy. Trailing 24-17 to start the fourth quarter, the Jets outscored the Bengals 17-7 in the final 15 minutes, including the go-ahead score with 3:45 remaining. White threw a 13-yard touchdown to tight end Tyler Kroft then caught the two-point conversion on a pass from wide receiver Jamison Crowder that had the Bengals confused.
Whether the Bengals were overconfident, lacked urgency, or were out coached, the Jets and White took advantage of their opportunities. He signed with the team in August 2019 after Dallas waived him. White has bounced back and forth between the Jets’ practice squad and their active roster since joining the organization.
Now he gets his second start tonight versus the Indianapolis Colts on the road. Another strong showing or two by White will have fans debating if he should hold the starting job once Wilson is ready to play again.