All those agonizing years, watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick hoisting one Lombardi Trophy after the next … all those years searching for a quarterback who could change everything.
All the decibel-quaking noise, an electrified stadium packed to the brim with apoplectic fans of a franchise mired in an 11-year playoff drought, trying so hard, too hard, to make the HC of the NEP and his Patriots feel like gladiators trapped inside the Colosseum.
John Franklin-Myers’ roughing the passer call on Mac Jones did not lose the game as much as Zach Wilson could not win it.
Zach Wilson versus Bill Belichick wasn’t a fair fight last season, and it still isn’t.
Wilson threw four interceptions in his home debut last season against the Patriots and tacked on three more in Sunday’s 22-17 defeat that is certain to cause consternation among deflated Jets fans that the growing pains are hardly over, that it is no sure thing that he is ready to take the second-year leap that would enable the Jets to Take Flight and close the gap on the AFC East.
What would have been Jets 17, Patriots 3 when Michael Carter II raced 84 yards with what would have been a pick-six of Mac Jones had JFM not fallen victim to the league’s crackdown on predators turned into Jets 10, Patriots 6 at the half.
“I think that woulda changed the whole game,” D.J. Reed said.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda has been a relentless lament for the Jets across 13 consecutive losses to the Patriots.
“I have to be better,” JFM said.
He is right about that. He is also right about this:
“We had a whole ’nother half.”
White Shoes Wilson threw for 203 of his career-high 355 yards in the second half, but his two interceptions late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter to Devin McCourty gave the Jets no chance to win.
He was asked if he shoulders this loss and he said: “No, but I need to play better.”
He can make breathtaking throws, and his escapability can buy him extra time. But if you fail to make judicious use of that time, especially against Belichick, you are doomed. If you do not understand that Belichick becomes Count Dracula at the sight of a self-inflicted wound, then shame on you.
“Every time I get out of the pocket, it just gets frustrating to throw the ball away,” Wilson said, “and that’s what I’ve done the last four weeks to put us in a good position to not turn the ball over and for us to win, and so I need to just be able to keep doing that when something’s not there. It gets old getting out and not seeing anything there.”
When he did do the right thing and throw the ball to the Jets sideline in the fourth quarter, the boo birds sounded off.
With Breece Hall gone for the season, the Jets need Wilson to be more than a game manager. But against Belichick, he was less than a game manager.
“I had some boneheaded plays,” Wilson said.
It was 19-10 when Wilson rolled right and didn’t see a wide-open Denzel Mims deep downfield or C.J. Uzomah underneath and tried for Tyler Conklin by the right sideline.
“I really meant to throw that ball away,” Wilson said. “The dude [Matt Judon] closed on me faster, kinda had me leave the ball inside. Can’t mess with that. Gotta sail it.”
It stayed 19-10 when Wilson, third-and-6 at his 46, overthrew Conklin. He sidearmed the thing. McCourty returned it 36 yards to the Jets’ 37, and soon it was 22-10.
“Not smart,” Wilson said.
He backpedaled and missed Tyler Johnson off his back foot on the first pick by Ja’Wuan Bentley that positioned Nick Folk for a last-second field goal before the half. “I tried to just touch it over there to him and just missed high,” Wilson said.
Robert Saleh of course expressed faith and belief in Wilson.
“We just have to rally around him,” Saleh said. “Coaches, we need to find a way to make it not necessarily simpler, but just help him continue to progress and evolve. He is still a young man. Playing quarterback in this league is not easy. Collectively, we have to do better for him. He just has to be able to do what he did the last four weeks in terms of just doing the simple stuff and not putting too much pressure on himself to do more than he needs to.”
For the Jets to capture a wild-card berth, they will need to stop riding on the Wilson roller coaster.
“There’s always things that happen and sometimes you sit there and you wonder, ‘Why did I just do that?’ kinda thing,” Wilson said.
He appeared primed to take that critical second-year jump in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh. “I don’t look at it like that. I go one game at a time, one play at a time,” Wilson said.
The Jets talked the 54-13 payback talk. When they needed him most, their young franchise quarterback couldn’t walk the walk.
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