The New England Patriots got embarrassed on Monday Night Football to begin the week with a 33-14 upset loss at home to Chicago despite the oddsmakers installing them as a 9.5-point favorite. The Patriots then went on the road against a surging Jets team highly motivated to avenge a 54-13 loss against them when they last played on October 24th last year. New York was on a four-game winning streak and hosted this game in an electric atmosphere at MetLife Stadium. Yet the oddsmakers still installed the Patriots as a small road favorite despite these circumstances?
We trusted the wisdom of the oddsmakers in selecting New England as our AFC East Game of the Month for this game. It started with our expectation that Bill Belichick would dial up a defensive plan to thwart the Jets’ second-year quarterback Zach Wilson.
The Patriots went into that divisional rivalry having a 58-19 record under Belichick against teams using a first-year or second-year quarterback. Those inexperienced quarterbacks had completed only 55.0% of their passes in those games. They averaged 162.1 passing yards per game in those seventy-seven games with 81 touchdown passes and 98 interceptions. The cumulative passer rating of those quarterbacks was 69.2.
New England validated our judgment with a 22-17 victory against the Jets. The Patriots went into the locker room trailing by a 10-6 score before outscoring New York in the second half, 16-7. The Jets only had 17 first downs in the game despite gaining 387 total yards of offense.
At first glance, it would seem as if Wilson had a good game. He threw for 355 yards with two touchdown passes. Yet his second touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Conklin took place with under two minutes when the Jets were trailing by 12 points. New York did not recover the on-side kick.
Despite all those passing yards, Wilson’s performance provided yet another example of Belichick’s mastery against young quarterbacks. Wilson threw three interceptions, with two of them being inexcusable mistakes. One interception came from Wilson throwing away a lazy pass away to the sideline that was nowhere close to safely avoiding Patriot defenders in the field of play. A second interception was wildly overthrown. Both of these interceptions affected the momentum of the game and help New England engineer their comeback victory.
The Jets’ coaching staff had done a good job in not asking Wilson to do too much with this offense before this game. But the offense had centered around the dynamic rookie running back Breece Hall who has rushed for 463 yards and caught another 218 receiving yards. He had five touchdowns. His season-ending ACL injury is devastating. New York still has second-year pro Michael Carter, and they acquired Brian Robinson from Jacksonville in a trade earlier this week. Yet both running backs are a downgrade from Hall. More was asked from Wilson who had gotten away with some dangerous decisions in the pocket during this recent winning streak.
The Jets only had 15 rushing attempts, with one of them coming from Wilson himself in a scramble. They only gained 51 yards on the ground. They were on the field for less than 25 minutes of the game, leaving their defense, which had been playing great during their four-game winning streak, on the field for more than 35 minutes of the game.
Belichick made sure to take away the Jets' rushing attack to goad New York into trying to win with Wilson's arm and decision-making. Three interceptions later, the Patriots pulled within one game of the Jets in AFC East standings and a game closer to owning the head-to-head tie-breaker between these two teams. Belichick frustrated yet another young quarterback.
Good luck - TDG.