EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson's first pass ended up in the other team's hands.
So did his second.
By the time it was all over — a nightmarish four quarters — the New York Jets quarterback had tossed four interceptions, leading to an ugly 25-6 loss to fellow rookie Mac Jones and the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“It's on my shoulders,” Wilson said. “I've got to do better.”
And that's an understatement.
In what was billed as the Mac vs. Zach matchup of first-round QBs, Jones was smart and efficient. Meanwhile, Wilson was anything but.
“He was off a little bit,” coach Robert Saleh said.
The No. 2 overall pick was 19 of 33 for 210 yards and the four INTs, struggling right away against the Patriots. It got so bad early in the fourth quarter when Wilson overthrew a receiver, the MetLife Stadium crowd — in attendance for their first regular-season game since Dec. 22, 2019, because of the pandemic — began booing the young QB.
“They should be booing, right?” Wilson said. “We didn't play well on offense. Our defense gave us a good chance to win. We didn't execute, we didn't move the ball well and we didn't score any points. We've got to do a better job there.”
Wilson's first mistake came on second down of the Jets' first possession when he threw a pass downfield to Corey Davis, who was closely defended. J.C. Jackson tipped it into the air, Devin McCourty deflected it and the ball landed in Jackson’s hands. It led to a field goal for the Patriots.
Wilson’s second pass was a high throw that slipped through Davis' hands, and Adrian Phillips grabbed it for the INT. New England turned that into a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
“I should've had that, 100%,” Davis said.
It wasn't until early in the second quarter that Wilson completed a pass to a teammate, and even that wasn't an optimal play. The 27-yard throw to a wide-open Elijah Moore led the wide receiver to the sideline rather than downfield. Otherwise, the Jets might've had a touchdown.
Wilson's third INT came on an badly underthrown pass to Moore that was easily picked off by Jackson.
It made the Jets quarterback the first player since at least 1991 to throw INTs on each of his first two pass attempts in a game, according to NFL Research. He was also the first player since at least ’91 to throw three INTs in his first five pass attempts in a game.
“I wouldn't say I was trying to do too much,” Wilson said of his struggles. “I would say (it was) lack of execution.”
Wilson's fourth interception opened the second half on a pass he floated downfield that was picked off by McCourty. It led to another touchdown for New England.
"When you have a rookie quarterback and they have a rookie quarterback, too, I mean, shoot," Saleh said. "It's just having confidence that it's OK to play a boring game of football. That's really it. And he is an electric dude, he's competitive as crap and he wants to win so bad.
“But sometimes it's OK to be boring, and that's probably the biggest lesson that we can take out of this one.”
Saleh never considered sitting Wilson at any point during the game. The Jets coach liked what he saw from his quarterback, certain Wilson's confidence wasn't shaken.
“He was fine,” Saleh said. “He had a great look in his eyes. He was good in conversation. It wasn't like he was overwhelmed. There's just some fundamental things he's got to understand with regards to, obviously, taking care of the ball and basic stuff.”
Saleh spoke to his young quarterback after the game and gave him a few words of encouragement.
“Just to believe in himself and to shake this one off," Saleh said he told Wilson. “And I promise you it's not going to be the hardest game he's ever played. He's got to just pick himself up and get ready for the next one.”
Wilson, who impressed his teammates and coaches in the opening loss at Carolina with his poise, insisted his poor performance won't carry over to next week when New York travels to Denver.
“This is what we sign up for, right?” Wilson said. "And there are going to be games like this and the ups and downs. ... I just have to remember the situation that I’m in and I’m an important piece in this whole thing and how can I just keep learning and getting better?
“You’ve got to keep that swag and that mojo every single week.”
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