This time, it was Jets fans the Patriots had seeing ghosts.
With rookie quarterback Zach Wilson throwing four interceptions, there had to be bad visions of Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Sam Darnold dancing in Jets fans’ heads. Wilson became the latest Jets would-be savior to be left looking silly by Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
New England rolled to a 25-6 victory over a Jets team that got strong outings in several facets of the game early but could not overcome Wilson’s miscues.
“It’s hard enough to win in this league when the turnover battle is even,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “When it’s down four, it’s darn near impossible.”
The loss drops the Jets to 0-2 for the third straight year and the home fans were booing the team in the second half. The Patriots moved to 1-1, avoiding their first 0-2 start since 2001. It was the 11th straight time the Jets have lost to the Patriots.
Unlike Week 1, there was nothing good for Wilson to take away from this one. He went 19 of 33 for 210 yards with the four interceptions for a QB rating of 37.0. His first two passes were both interceptions. He became the first Jets quarterback to throw four interceptions since 2019 when Darnold threw four against the Patriots and famously said he was “seeing ghosts.” The Patriots scored 16 points following Wilson’s turnovers.
“We’ve got to start better,” Wilson said. “I’ve got to start better. And then really we’ve just got to execute better across the board. I’m going to take that this week and it’s on my shoulders. I’ve got to do better.”
Making things worse, Patriots rookie Mac Jones, taken by the Patriots 13 picks after Wilson, had a strong performance. He was not flashy, but made good decisions and was accurate. He finished the day 22 of 30 for 186 yards.
For Wilson, things started off badly and got worse.
Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off Wilson’s first pass. Linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley came on a delayed blitz on the play and Wilson forced a throw to Corey Davis. Jackson tipped the ball in the air and then caught it after falling to the ground. The Patriots converted the turnover into a 46-yard field goal from former Jet Nick Folk.
On the Jets’ next possession, Wilson was intercepted by safety Adrian Phillips. Wilson rolled to his right on the play and had a wide-open Elijah Moore in front of him but opted instead for a harder throw to Davis. The throw was high but should have been caught by Davis. Instead it sailed through his hands and Phillips grabbed it.
The Patriots marched 72 yards in six plays, a drive that was capped off by a 7-yard James White touchdown.
While the first two interceptions had explanations, the next two did not. The third was an ill-advised throw toward Elijah Moore that Jackson picked off in the second quarter.
The final interception of the day came in the third quarter. Devin McCourty got this one. Wilson just threw the ball up for grabs. It was hard to figure out exactly who he was throwing it to. There were Patriots all around the ball and McCourty came down with it.
Two plays later, Patriots running back Damien Harris ran through the Jets’ defense for a 26-yard touchdown. Harris broke at least six tackles on the run and dragged a few Jets defenders into the end zone with him.
The horror show from Wilson overwhelmed any other good that the Jets had in the game. But the defense played OK and the beleaguered offensive line had a nice bounce-back game. The Jets had a good day running the ball, gaining 152 yards.
The Jets now go to Denver to face the Broncos and must pick up their young quarterback.
“I think as a young player it gets tough at times because you want to be that guy who’s making big plays and get the fans going crazy and different things like that,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “But he’ll be fine. I have no doubt about him.”
Belichick has a reputation for making young quarterbacks look bad, but he did not throw the kitchen sink at Wilson. Saleh said there was nothing “exotic” about what the Patriots did on defense. Saleh sounded like he wished Wilson took the easy throw more often.
“It’s just having confidence that it’s OK to play a boring game of football. That’s really it,” Saleh said. “He is an electric dude. He’s competitive as crap. He wants to win so bad. But sometimes it’s OK to be boring. That’s probably the biggest lesson that he can take out of this one.”
The home fans booed Wilson in the second half, which he said he understood.
“They should be booing, right?”
Speaking of boo, one Boston reporter asked Wilson if he was seeing ghosts on Sunday.
“No, most definitely not,” Wilson said with a smile.
The Jets are off to a familiar slow start. They have now lost 11 straight games in September, with their last win coming in Week 1 of 2018 in Detroit. It is understandable if Jets fans are already getting restless.
“If I had anything to say to Jets fans, just continue to be patient with the process,” Rankins said. “We got the pieces. We got the players. We got the coaches. This thing’s gonna turn around. Like I said, to change a culture, it’s not easy. Especially from a culture that’s lost for a long time.”