In Zach Wilson’s first game against the Panthers, he showed poise, arm strength and toughness. All of those traits were nowhere to be found against the New England Patriots as the Jets dropped their second game of the season, 25-6.
And Wilson became just another rookie quarterback to get bullied by Bill Belichick’s team, finishing 19-for-33 with 210 yards and four interceptions.
Robert Saleh described his young signal caller accuracy as “off a little bit.”
What was most alarming was the Patriots defense wasn’t running many complex schemes against the No. 2 overall pick. Wilson was just wildly inaccurate with multiple poor passes.
“I wouldn’t say that they do a ton as far as just coverage wise,” Wilson said. “I felt like we had a good idea and we’re seeing the field well. It was just a lack of execution. I can think of multiple plays where I feel like I got to see something better and get to something faster or it makes it just a better throw.”
As a result of a poor performance, the home crowd let Wilson hear it in the fourth quarter after an errant throw to Michael Carter II.
“I mean I’m not paying attention to it, but they should be booing. we’re didn’t play well on offense,” Wilson said.
Clearly Wilson had his own version of seeing ghosts.
The worst interception of the game came in the first drive of the third quarter. Wilson lofted a punt-like pass towards the sideline for Elijah Moore, but it was high and softly landed in Devin McCourty possession.
Wilson blamed some of it on confusion.
“They were playing their two trap coverage. They did a good job of taking away my check down to the side,” Wilson said. “We did have a little bit of confusion out there on the sideline, but the balls in my hands are gonna take care of the ball.”
Two plays later, Patriots Damien Harris broke the game open with a 26-yard touchdown run. Harris ran through seven Jet defenders, barreling his way into the end zone.
That put the Patriots up, 19-3, and the game was essentially over.
One aspect that stuck out was Wilson wasn’t reading the field quick enough and other times he would force the ball instead of taking what was there. One example was on his second interception to Patriots safety Adrian Phillips.
Wilson ran a play-action fake and rolled right. He had Moore in the flat and forced a pass to Davis on a crosser. The ball was slightly high and went through Davis’ hands.
Davis took blame for the interception, but Wilson should have taken the easier throw.
Saleh says part of Wilson’s development is understanding the boring parts of football.
“There’s just some fundamental things that he’s got to understand with regards to taking care of the ball,” Saleh said.
There were some positives from the offense.
The Jets showed improvement in their run game and along the offensive line, which were weak points against the Panthers Week 1. The rushing attack was better, racking up 152 yards on the ground and the offensive line created holes for the running backs and gave Wilson time to throw.
But it didn’t matter because Wilson looked every bit a newcomer to the NFL.
After two of Wilson’s first five passes were intercepted in the first quarter alone, the rookie’s rhythm was shaken and he never got it back. The Patriots capitalized and scored 10 points off of the turnovers. Gang Green trailed 10-0.
On the Jets third possession, the offense showed some life.
Wilson threw a beautiful deep pass to Moore on a wheel route for 27 yards to the Patriots 22 yard-line. After a seven yard completion to Braxton Berrios and three strong carries by Carter, it was third and goal from the Patriots two yard-line.
The Jets ran up the middle and Ty Johnson was stuffed, which led to a field goal by Matt Ammendola.
That made it 10-3 in the second quarter.
The Jets wouldn’t score again until the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter when Ammedola nailed another field goal to make it, 22-6.
Wilson’s four interception day could have ended up worse for the Jets if not for their defense.
“I thought our guys played their butts off,” Saleh said. “But when you lose the turnover battle four to nothing it’s impossible. It’s hard enough to win in this league when the turnover battle is even.”
The unit allowed just 260 total yards and forced the Patriots to go 1-for-3 in the red zone. The Jets pass defense proved efficient as Mac Jones went 22-for-30 for only 186 passing yards with zero touchdowns. Jones finished with an average of 4.8 yard per attempt.
There were plenty of plays when Jones couldn’t find any receivers before checking down. It was a dink and dunk attack from the Patriots.
Gang Green’s defensive line was able to cause pressure. Both Sheldon Rankins and John Franklin-Myers logged a sack. And the run defense only allowed 101 yards on 25 carries. Half of the Patriots’ points came from Nick Folk’s four field goals.
The defense held up their end, but turnovers get you beat in the NFL.
Now the Jets are 0-2 and the upcoming schedule doesn’t get easier as they face another good defense next week in the Denver Broncos.
If the Jets offense doesn’t turn it around soon, it could end up being a long year.