Zach Wilson didn’t see any ghosts in his first game against Bill Belichick’s defense, but he heard plenty of boos.
The Jets rookie quarterback had a miserable performance in his home debut and the MetLife Stadium fans let him know how they felt. Wilson threw four interceptions – two on his first two attempts and all four in his first 10 pass attempts – and never gave the Jets a chance to beat their AFC East rival.
Wilson handed the Patriots a 25-6 victory Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have now lost 11 straight to New England and are 0-2 under first-time head coach Robert Saleh.
"It’s on my shoulders," Wilson said. "I got to do better."
This was the Jets’ first game at MetLife with fans since 2019, and they left disgusted after Wilson’s abysmal performance. The No 2 pick from BYU threw interceptions on his first two pass attempts.
Wilson was one interception shy of matching the Jets’ rookie record set by Mark Sanchez in 2009. Many fans left early, but Wilson heard the first boos of his Jets’ career in the fourth quarter after over-throwing a wide-open receiver.
"They should be booing, right?" Wilson said. "We didn’t play well on offense."
That’s an understatement.
It wasn’t as if Belichick threw all these exotic blitzes or different looks at Wilson. They were in man coverage and the young quarterback just made poor decisions and wasn’t sharp from the very beginning.
"There was nothing schematic that our offense wasn’t prepared for," Saleh said. "He was off."
Wilson finished 19-for-33 for 210 yards and had a passer rating of 37.0.
Saleh said Wilson has to not try to make a big play all the time and that being "boring" and going to his checkdowns works, too.
"It’s just having confidence that it’s OK to play a boring game of football," Saleh said. "He is an electric dude. He’s competitive as crap and he wants to win so bad. Sometimes it’s OK to be boring. That’s really the biggest lesson we can take out of this one."
Corey Davis, who had two touchdown grabs last week, caught just two passes for 8 yards. Matt Ammendola’s two field goals from 21 and 35 yards away accounted for the Jets’ only points.
Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones fared far better than Wilson. Jones was 22-for-30 for 186 yards and no turnovers. Damien Harris and James White scored rushing touchdowns for New England. Former Jet Nick Folk kicked four field goals.
Two years ago, former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a four-interception Monday night game against Belichick’s Patriots at MetLife. A mic’d up Darnold said on the sideline, "I see ghosts." Wilson was asked if that happened to him.
"No, most definitely not," Wilson said.
Wilson said he never got into any rhythm. The Jets ran just four offensive plays in the first quarter.
"It’s tough when your first two passes are interceptions," he said. "We’re putting our team, the defense especially, in a bad spot there. I’ve got to do a better job executing, decision making, just being smart with the ball."
The Jets’ offensive line and run game were much better than Week 1in Carolina. Wilson was sacked four times – two in the last two minutes - and the Jets totaled 152 yards on the ground. But Wilson’s mistakes were impossible for the Jets to overcome.
On his first pick, Wilson threw into traffic. It was tipped and eventually grabbed by J.C. Jackson. On the second, Wilson had a wide-open Elijah Moore right in front of him. But he forced it to Davis and threw it high. It went through Davis’ hands. Adrian Phillips picked it.
"I should have had that, 100%," Davis said. "That’s on me."
The first two interceptions led to a Folk 46-yard field goal and 7-yard touchdown run by White, putting the Jets in a 10-0 hole.
The Jets put together a good drive after that, with Wilson completing back-to-back passes for 27 and 7 yards. They had first-and-goal from the 8. The drive stalled when Ty Johnson was hit for a 1-yard loss on third down from the 2. They settled for a Ammendola 21-yard field goal – the first of his NFL career.
After a strong defensive series by the Jets that included sacks by John Franklin-Myers and Sheldon Rankins, Wilson was intercepted for the third time in the half.
The Jets were in New England territory when Wilson underthrew Moore and Jackson got his second pick of the game. It happened at the Patriots’ 13. It was a huge momentum killer.
"We’re a young team," Rankins said. "It’s not going to be an easy process. We’re literally coming in here and changing the culture of a whole organization that’s lost for a while. It’s not going to be easy."
In the second half, Wilson was intercepted on his third pass attempt on another poorly thrown ball.
Devin McCourty joined the pick party and returned it to the Jets’ 35. Two plays later, Harris scored on a 26-yard touchdown run, breaking tackles and carrying some Jets into the end zone with him to make it 19-3.
"I felt like we showed up to play," Saleh said. "I thought our guys played their butts off. It’s hard enough to win in this league when the [turnover] battle is even. When it’s down four, it’s darn near impossible."