Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Getty Images

Some of the problems are persistent while others are surprising

Halt the narrative: the New York Jets did not get their revenge against the New England Patriots.

Instead, Bill Belichick moved into second place on the all-time coaches’ win list after picking up his 35th victory against the Green and White, vs. just 10 losses.

However, besides the continuation of the Jets’ now-13-game losing streak against their bullies up north, there are other issues to be concerned about. Some of them are now recurring themes, but others were considered advantages for the Jets and failed them against New England.

As the All-22 film comes out, we will review the game more closely to see what exactly happened. However, after watching the game unfold, here are some of the biggest problems that caused the Jets’ 22-17 defeat.

It starts with the quarterback

Even the most die-hard Zach Wilson truther must be concerned after Wilson’s performance today. No. 2 threw three boneheaded interceptions, including a throwaway that he failed to get out of bounds and an off-balance lob into double coverage.

Wilson came out playing fairly well early, hooking up with Garrett Wilson for a 54-yard connection and throwing a touchdown to Tyler Conklin. However, with time ticking in the first half, Wilson threw his first pick to Ja’Whaun Bentley, an overthrown ball to Ty Johnson on which he failed to set his feet. He didn’t recover from that mistake until it was too late.

Confidence has often been an issue with Wilson. When he’s comfortable and in rhythm, he has the confidence to trust his reads and get the ball out on time. However, once he makes one mistake, he becomes panicky and off rhythm and struggles to connect with receivers even when they’re open.

Wilson’s second pick came on a play in which he had Denzel Mims open deep. He missed Conklin earlier in the game on a sailed pass. This is a recurring theme in Wilson’s last few games.

Furthermore, despite the graphic from the CBS broadcast showing that Wilson was pressured on more than half his dropbacks, this game should not be confused with last week’s. Wilson had many plays where he had enough time to throw but held the ball for 3+ seconds before being pressured. His time to throw was one of the highest in the league coming into this game.

Sure, there were plays on which there was no one open, but there were also plenty on which Wilson could have either run for the first down or found a checkdown. He just looked ill at ease and rattled throughout the second half, reminiscent of the Sam Darnold “ghosts” game.

By the time Wilson connected with Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, and Tyler Conklin on a TD drive with less than two minutes remaining in the game, it was too little, too late. The Patriots recovered the onside kick and killed the Jets’ last chance of a comeback.

However, that comeback may not have been as steep or necessary if Wilson had avoided the backbreaking mistake. The Jets’ defense was not perfect today, but they were up to the challenge after each of Wilson’s turnovers. They kept the team in the game throughout.

Questions will abound about No. 2. After playing fairly well in his first two games back from injury, Wilson has completely regressed, looking his worst today. The progress of the QB was one of the key goals of this season, and it’s difficult to find any of that in Wilson’s game tape from the last three weeks.

This game should also answer any questions about why Joe Flacco (now relegated to the No. 3 QB role behind Mike White) is not starting despite averaging over 300 passing yards per game. Wilson had 355 today. No one can kid themselves into thinking that he played well. Passing yards are a largely useless stat without context.

A No. 2 pick will always have a bit of a leash, but with the Jets improving their team significantly around Wilson, the lack of improvement from him is concerning. Even head coach Robert Saleh, ever protective of his quarterback, admitted that Wilson “needs to play better.” The rumblings in East Rutherford about whether Wilson is the answer will get ever louder.

Special teams woes

After a horrific start to the season against Baltimore, the Jets’ special teams had been one of their biggest strengths since. Greg Zuerlein was 3-for-3 on his field goals last week and was one of the main reasons the Jets beat Denver. Braden Mann has been nailing long punts and pinning teams deep. The punt coverage had been solid. Overall, the Jets were third in the NFL in special teams DVOA heading into this game.

Today, nearly every aspect of the special teams failed miserably. Mann set the tone with a 22-yard shank following the Jets’ three-and-out on their first drive. Braxton Berrios, who was second in the NFL in kick return average (24.4) among those with at least six returns heading into the game, had two returns at 18.0 yards per attempt, setting the Jets up inside their 20 both times.

The Jets’ punt coverage, so strong all season, also goofed, allowing a 32-yard punt return to rookie Marcus Jones. With the score 16-10, the Patriots started with the ball at the Jets’ 27, leading to another field goal and a two-score lead that was ultimately insurmountable.

Furthermore, Zuerlein missed a key 45-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 13. The Patriots had just taken the lead with a decisive march downfield into the end zone coming out of the half. The Jets responded with a decent drive of their own, going seven plays and 48 yards. The drive was highlighted by an 18-yard throw to Garrett Wilson and a 27-yard toss to Tyler Conklin. A good kick there would have evened the momentum. Instead, Zuerlein missed it, and the Patriots responded with a field goal.

The poor special teams play was further lopsided considering that Nick Folk went five-for-five on his own field goal attempts, including hits from 49 and 52. The former Jets’ kicker burned his old team. Patriots’ punter Jake Bailey, struggling entering the game, pinned the Jets at their own eight on his first punt of the day. While Bailey wasn’t great, the Jets did not gain any significant advantage from his punting.

Brant Boyer had done a fantastic job with his unit up to this point. It’s disappointing to see the deficiencies in this game. While Zach Wilson lost the game for the Jets, the special teams certainly contributed.

Third down defense early

While the Patriots finished the day 6-for-19 on third down, a 32% conversion rate that is nothing to write home about, they gashed the Jets on third-and-long early. On the Patriots’ second drive of the game, they converted third downs of 10, 11, and five yards before falling short on third and goal. On their next drive, they converted a third-and-eight and were starting to put a drive together before Bryce Huff hit Mac Jones and forced a third-and-nine interception.

On the Patriots’ 13-play, 70-yard drive that culminated in a turnover on downs, they also converted third downs of five and seven yards.

The Jets’ defense played well overall, but the inability to get off the field on third down hurt them in the first half. This has been a theme at times this year. Though they’re ranked 20th in the NFL with a 41.5% third-down conversion rate allowed, that number is up from 29th after four weeks of play. The overall stats in this game will only improve their ranking, but some of the conversions early in the game were back-breaking.

Mistakes in critical spots

We’ve already reviewed Zach Wilson’s follies in this game. His pick on third-and-2 at the Jets’ 43 with 0:48 in the first half was backbreaking, its significance reminiscent of Wilson’s first pick of the season near the end of the half against the Steelers. His other two interceptions killed virtually any chance the Jets had at a comeback.

A particularly painful error in this game, though, was once again a penalty. The Jets were the sixth-most penalized team in the NFL heading into Week 8. Though they were called for only four penalties today (for 41 total yards), one near the end of the second quarter heavily swung the game. Following Zach Wilson’s first interception, the Jets appeared to make a game-altering play, as Michael Carter II picked off Mac Jones and returned it 84 yards to the house. However, John Franklin-Myers was called for a roughing the passer penalty, and the Patriots scored a field goal. Instead of a 17-3 lead at the half, the Jets had to settle for 10-6. They never recovered the momentum.

Though Saleh was furious about the penalty, which, he was told by the officials, was called because JFM hit the quarterback “too hard,” that hit is often called in today’s NFL. There has been much controversy about the number of soft roughing calls this season, and you could argue that Franklin-Myers took only one step, had started his hit prior to the release of the ball, and hit Jones in the chest, not the helmet. However, this is the second bad penalty on JFM this season, and it was a back-breaker.

Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich deserve overall praise for the way their defense has played this year. There is not much exception today. They overcame terrible field position disadvantages and held the Patriots to one touchdown and five field goals. They sacked Mac Jones six times and picked him off once (almost twice).

However, the back-breaking penalties keep mounting. This defense needs more discipline against boneheaded plays. Yes, the unnecessary roughness penalty on C.J. Mosley was incorrect, per John Parry on the broadcast. Yes, there have been some bad calls on the Jets throughout the season. But they need to be smarter.

Offensive line

Everyone was concerned about the Jets’ offensive line following the loss of Alijah Vera-Tucker for the season. There was further reason to be concerned about the run game with the loss of both AVT and Breece Hall. The acquisition of James Robinson raised hope that the Jets could still establish a run game, but that did not happen today. The Jets had 15 carries for 51 yards, just 3.4 yards per attempt. They could not mask the deficiencies in Zach Wilson’s play.

Furthermore, the aforementioned CBS graphic late in the fourth quarter showed that Wilson was pressured eighteen times plus one sack and one hit in 37 dropbacks. Although some of it was on Wilson, the Jets did struggle in pass protection at times. Additionally, Wilson had three passes batted down, at least two of which were due to penetration at the line.

Max Mitchell warmed up today, and as he’s eligible to come off injured reserve next week, the Jets could choose to the line out until they get healthy. According to Saleh, the Jets are hopeful that George Fant will return against New England in three weeks following the bye. If Fant is healthier than he was earlier in the season, there is some reason for optimism that he could play more like he did last season, when he had one of the lowest pressure rates allowed among tackles.

However, Joe Douglas has been doing his due diligence on offensive linemen, and a move is still possible. This game did not provide any encouragement about the line’s ability to hold up. The offensive line continues to be an issue as injuries and poor play from veterans threaten to completely derail the Jets’ offense.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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Peter Buell
Peter Buell
29 days ago

I’m not trying to say Zack looked good at all. What can be expected. He’s even being blamed for the run game.
A kid who just finished a full season. Bad line last year. Now without AVT even worse this year!
The backs run for 51 yards. That should be an indication of just how bad the line was not one more thing to throw on Wilson.
Top receiver OUT! OLine OUT run game against a terrible run D HORRIBLE.
Wilson’s picks can be excused but how the he’ll is he going to grow with no line and no run game and a D that can be great but turns too many 3rd downs into 1sts and can’t seem to help committing stupid penalties!
And there’s never a prove to pay! Stupid penalty again and again, you sit the half or the game or it will never change

mlesko73
mlesko73
29 days ago

Great article Rivka, like someone else said “depressing to read”, but completely accurate.

Well, I’m sure that you recall last week’s comments where I supported giving Zach time to grow. This game makes do a complete “180”. His play was inexplicable; it looked like he was trying to throw interceptions. Retreating w/ his back to the LOS became maddening. We have no choice but to give him this yr to improve, but I am highly skeptical based on this performance.

The more I watch other teams, the more I am perplexed by what it is we are running on O. Jimmy G is not the second-coming, but watch the 49ers run the WCO.

A couple of asides…why is Jeff Smith on the field, and in crunch time? Saying that we would be getting the ball to Moore and Mims was what, a smokescreen?

can’t wait to see the film analysis, b/c at this point I am at a loss; hearing the LaFleur excuse, or the OLine excuse over and over has made it impossible to know what needs to be done.

Sarah
Sarah
30 days ago

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Last edited 30 days ago by Sarah
Jim G
Jim G
30 days ago

This will be one of those games which will be debated all season. Your analysis was solid, albeit depressing.

Personally, I cannot place any of this loss on the defense or special teams. Virtually every game features at least one bad play by offense, defense and special teams, but the good teams find a way to overcome them. Zach Wilson put the defense in difficult situations time after time, yet the defense held them to field goals. If a defense allows 13 or 16 points, even after multiple baptisms by fire as in this game, that is normally a winning performance. I thought the Jets defensive front manhandled the Patriots offensive line for most of the game.

I also cannot blame the Jets offensive line for this loss. People seem to think offensive line is a “plug and play” operation. In fact, it requires continuity and coordination to make it work. Belichick knew his best chance to win was to stop the Jets running game and force Zach Wilson to beat him with the pass. I think the game turned more on the Patriots committing to stop the run than the Jets failure to get the run game going.

I also can’t blame the Jets receiving corps for the loss. I don’t remember any drops or even passes which should have been, but weren’t, caught.

That leaves us with Zach Wilson. Your reference to the “seeing ghosts” game rang true. During the game I e-mailed a friend and said I think Zach was seeing ghosts. The friend e-mailed back that seeing ghosts was not the problem, but Zach trying to play like he did at BYU is the problem. You simply can’t play that way against bigger, faster, NFL players. Perhaps we are both right.

As far as Zach Wilson’s future is concerned, I keep thinking back to Eli Manning’s early years. Clearly, Eli Manning had the physical skills to be an NFL QB. However, he would sometimes make costly mistakes which, at worst, cost his team the game or, as a minimum, required the defense to bail him out. But it all came together for two Super Bowl seasons and he is not officially a Giant legend. Maybe the same will happen for Zach Wilson, but we need time for him to develop.

Jim G
Jim G
29 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

You’re right, Eli Manning was NFL ready when he arrived at the Giants. I think the Jets may have misjudged how NFL ready Zach Wilson was. I’m willing to give him time to improve.

You’re also right that the team improved much faster than the QB. I thought the team and Zach would be on the same timeline for improvement, but I was obviously wrong. Zach looked like he didn’t know where to throw the ball yesterday.

Matt Galemmo
Matt Galemmo
30 days ago

Moving forward, if I’m the Jets coaching staff, I’m telling Zach he’s not allowed to back away from pressure for the foreseeable future. There were many opportunities today for him to step up and make a throw, including the INT to Johnson. And there were also probably opportunities to break the pocket going forward, and get actual yards. I don’t know if he’s afraid of getting hit or taking sacks or whatever, but he’s got to learn to step up and deliver a solid ball no matter what’s happening around him. I do not think he did that once in the last two weeks.

It’s great he didn’t get sacked until late in the fourth quarter–or is it? How much is he leaving on the field by turning his back and running? Let’s find out.

It looks to me like he doesn’t know either, so force him to find out. Once he knows what he can achieve by stepping up, then he can be allowed to back out of the pocket again. It doesn’t look like he’s going to choose to do it on his own, so his coaching staff is going to have to force it on him.

Last edited 30 days ago by Matt Galemmo
Peter Buell
Peter Buell
30 days ago

Yes! Zack Wilson makes too many boneheaf plays. Will I give up on him. Yes! If he’s still doing this at the end on NEXT year.
Line is horrible (TRADE FOR TUNSIL) but Wilson also has a ton of talent…some get to the mountain quicker than others and he has the arm that zips balls into tight pockets.
Missing today 1 favorite target 2. best and maybe only good lineman 3 home run hitter and best offensive player out.
I dont remember much of a run game! 2 yards 3 yards.
Finally, coincides with Zack…is the entire team just stupid? I’ve seen so many stupid penalties on defense to fill a season and we’re not halfway there yet.
It like it’s compulsive! I have to hit this guy late out of bounds or behind him in the legs.
Back to Zack…Great they finally rolled him out. How about encouraging him to take off. Zack see the line of scrimmage after runming 30 years BEHIND the line and BOOM! He stops dead and looks to throw.
His talents are strong arm, good passing on the run and a good runner.
Zack had too many bone head plays. Defense too many penalties and too often great on 1st and 2nd down..third sown turns to 1st dow….other team goes down the field. Then the realize thier good and hold to 3.
Special teams wasn’t special at all.
Game made me sick and few don’t belong in the doghouse.
Conklin and the other Wilson namely!

Peter Buell
Peter Buell
30 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

This roster is talented. Yes. No O Line. I’m not giving up on a guy I beleive has the tools till they can put 2 good and one competent guys in the line at the same time
For sh#ts and giggles start Flacco or White next week and see what happens.
There is so much talent there and I see it but a 2nd year guy who can’t get a clean pocket on 3 plays in a row even ince in a game
Don’t let you’re frustration talk. Look up the Jets O line and QBs in 98 09 10 the last 3 times they went to the AFC CHAMP game.
Talk about a very good team…please! 8 games and the D can’t get off on 3rd down.
This is a preview. It wasn’t supposed to happen till next year and you’re seeing why.

Mike Palazzo
Mike Palazzo
30 days ago

The Jets beat themselves in this one.

Bird9
Bird9
30 days ago

The killer paragraph:

<q>Confidence has often been an issue with Wilson. When he’s comfortable and in rhythm, he has the confidence to trust his reads and get the ball out on time. However, once he makes one mistake, he becomes panicky and off rhythm and struggles to connect with receivers even when they’re open.</q>

Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago

Excellent summary. I don’t think Zach “lost” the game for them, he did not play well but they scored 3 points off of his picks. I don’t know what he was thinking. He made some great throws today, and looked pretty good aside of the dumb passes. I want to know what he was thinking?

I hope he can mature out of it. It’s not like the defense did anything spectacular.

I am more concerned with the defense giving up 3rd and long like it’s their job. ALL DAY! I counted at least 6 times NE converted 3rd and 7 or more OR….it was 2nd and 15 only to become 3rd and 2. That’s a HUGE problem.

Also, a HUGE problem…clearly they didn’t recover from the penalty. It was bad enough JFM made that hit, I think it was questionable considering the “where and when” aspect of these roughing calls but to let that one play take the entire team out of the game mentally is a problem.

They lost today because they were not mentally tough and NE was, to me it’s that simple. I didn’t like Ulbrich’s comments about the blow out last year. He gave it too much attention and too much verbal response. I think the some players also made too many comments about knowing what happened. Clearly they weren’t mentally into TODAY’S game the way they needed to be.

I actually don’t feel as badly about this as I expected. I don’t like it one bit they blew a game they clearly had the means to win, but it’s something they can learn from. We aren’t sitting here saying they don’t have the talent.

Psi
Psi
30 days ago
Reply to  Jets71

This is a team/franchise that is still learning how to win. Your point about the chirping before the game is on point. In this media market they have to resist the urge to yap. Also, this QB is the reason I was on the fence about this game. It’s clear the Jets have better personnel. You just don’t yet have the feeling they have the QB to consistently get it done. My take is Zach has all the physical tools in the world, but is mentally a bit immature. This leads to the inconsistencies. This could go either way imo. He digs deep and pushes through his problems or he melts down and the Jets have to find the next guy. Right now, I’m uncertain which it will be.

Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago
Reply to  Psi

I’m with you 100%. That’s how I feel. I think it’s look in the mirror time. He’s got the talent as you said, and to be honest I told a friend I thought they needed to let him go a bit.

Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

There was more being said than “We remember last year.” They talked about “shots being taken”, “I can’t wait for this one”, “it was brought up in meetings” there was too much said, and I think it contributed to the loss of focus when some things got tough out there.

I think he tries to do too much and you’re right it doesn’t look like it’s going away soon. I also saw some great throws, I’m willing to hang in with him. Worst case they are 5-4 at the bye, and I’m sorry but this is more than anybody expected AND the standard everybody said they would be happy with, so be happy.

Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Zach Wilson just lost his first game as a starter this season and is 4-1. He didn’t play well. I’m not ready to go all off the deep end over it regardless of whether it looks like the same mistakes or not. Also, what does “may well become 5-5” have to do with this? They could be 5-4 facing 6-4 and back on track just as easily.

Also, since you are saying based on how the season has gone you can be unhappy, then based on how the season has gone, you should expect less from the team moving forward given the loss of their best offensive weapon and best OL. (BTW, both guys you gave Joe a hard time for drafting because he “overpaid” for one, and the other was a “controversial” pick)

You can and should be happy with 5-4 at the break regardless. Nobody can say for sure what would have happened with an “average QB.” No QB makes EVERY throw, NONE, so that 10-12 number is inflated. I see QB’s miss wide open guys every week. You are putting all of this on Zach and that’s just not how it works.

The boneheaded play by JFM lead to 6 points taken off the board. I’d swap that play for any of the INT’s. If you can say they would have won with an average QB I can say they would have won if they were up 17-3 at the half.

Last edited 30 days ago by Jets71
Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

We can disagree on Ulbrich, I hear you about the misses as well. Just felt to me like they mentally broke down. I also disagree about the defense. You look at the number of “third and longs” they let NE convert in the first half. I’m sorry, that is the same as Zach missing a throw, not the end of the world but they add up. Look at the starting field position, it was part of the problem.

The 1st turnover wasn’t great, what shifted the game was the penalty on the pick 6, regardless of that INT. I mean he’s gonna throw some picks. Every QB has head scratchers. The game clearly shifted on the pick 6 that was called back for a dumb hit, not the INT. 17-3 going in with Mac having 2 INT’s would have changed everything.

Last edited 30 days ago by Jets71
Jets71
Jets71
30 days ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

I do agree all 3 were the same dumb mistakes we have been seeing. The roughing the passer was also the same dumb mistake we have been seeing. I’m confident the Jets win that game if they go in the locker room up 17-3.

Bird9
Bird9
30 days ago

Excellent summary.