In many ways I felt like today’s game would be a test of maturity for the Jets. They were facing a division rival with the tough task of playing on the road after a short week. These aren’t Tom Brady’s Patriots. This current version of the team looks very ordinary, and they were coming off an ugly loss to Chicago. The Jets were on fire, coming off four straight wins. They were a week away from a showdown with Buffalo. Take care of business today, and the Jets would be playing next week for first place in the entire conference.
For 29 minutes, it felt like the Jets had answered the bell. They led 10-3. It felt like more than that. The Jets were clearly the superior team in the first half. Then two critical mistakes happened in the final minute of the second quarter. Zach Wilson threw an ugly interception falling backwards that gave the Patriots the ball in scoring range.
No problem. Michael Carter II returned a Mac Jones interception the distance to put the Jets up by two scores heading into the locker room...or so it seemed. John Franklin-Myers was flagged for roughing the passer to wipe out the score. Your mileage might vary on whether the call was correct. Personally I wanted to get fired up over how the officials had robbed the Jets. But when I saw the play, it looked like a pretty clear case of roughing the passer.
The defense held the Patriots to a field goal to preserve a 10-6 halftime lead. Still, from there it felt like the Jets lost their composure. The second half kickoff was mishit by Braden Mann, giving New England a short field. For the one time all day, the defense allowed the Patriots to march down the field for a touchdown in six plays. A missed Jets field goal followed after New England took the lead.
While the Jets collectively seemed to be rattled by what happened right before halftime, nobody seemed to lose his composure more than Zach Wilson. Prior to that interception, he was having a strong day.
At this point, Wilson is probably a one to one and a half read quarterback, but he was playing with confidence in the first half. His presnap reads seemed on point, and he was decisive and accurate getting the ball to that first read. Along with some nice play design and escapability, the Jets were able to move the ball.
That all changed in the second half. Wilson threw a pair of ugly interceptions and generally looked out of sorts prior to a garbage time touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Zach Wilson wasn’t the only reason the Jets lost the game, but his play was the most concerning of the reasons. The last few weeks, the Jets were winning games, but I don’t think you could say quarterback play was the reason. A dominant defense and the tremendous performance of Breece Hall carried the team.
I wouldn’t even say the interceptions came out of nowhere. In the recent victories, Wilson repeatedly put the ball into harm’s way but was fortunate to come away unscathed. His luck ran out against New England.
Without Hall, the Jets needed a team effort on offense to compensate. Some players like Garrett Wilson (6 receptions, 115 yards) rose to the occasion. Even Tyler Conklin, a player who frequently is on the receiving end of my criticism, stepped up.
For a moment, it felt like Zach Wilson was going to as well. Then he didn't.
Many Jets fans hoped the team would avoid the mistakes it made trying develop other young quarterbacks. These past signal callers never really had a chance because the Jets failed to adequately build a supporting cast. The Jets are not currently reliving this history. Instead they are providing the fanbase with deja vu of another situation. The early Rex Ryan years saw a team that was built to win but needed to work around a limited young quarterback. I think it’s fair to say these Jets would be 6-2 if they got adequate quarterback play today.
I don’t know what the answer is. It seemed like the Jets misjudged how NFL ready Zach Wilson was when they drafted him a year ago. In doing so, they decided to not put a viable alternative on the roster.
Of course, Zach Wilson wasn’t the only problem with the Jets. The offensive line is showing the effects of having four players on injured reserve. They didn’t run block or pass block effectively, taking Zach Wilson’s issues and making them worse.
It was an uncharacteristic poor day for Brant Boyer’s special teams unit across the board.
Then you have the bizarre handling of the wide receiver position. Elijah Moore was back in the lineup but barely saw the field.
Jets' WRs Week 8 snap counts and routes run (per @PFF):— Underdog NFL (@Underdog__NFL) October 30, 2022
Garrett Wilson 52 (42)
Denzel Mims 44 (32)
Braxton Berrios 30 (23)
Jeff Smith 13 (9)
Elijah Moore 10 (7)
Moore on chemistry with Zach Wilson: “I don’t get the ball. I don’t know.”
The coaching staff didn’t provide a whole lot of clarity on the situation.
Elijah Moore playe only 10 of 58 snaps, per @NextGenStats. Zero catches, one target.— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) October 30, 2022
His reduced role had nothing to do with his trade request, per Saleh, who said they wanted to give Garrett Wilson more time with Corey Davis out. #Jets
That explanation is frankly nonsense. The Jets aren’t running a one wide receiver offense. Nobody believes Garrett Wilson would be coming off the field if Elijah Moore was there.
I understand Elijah Moore might not be living up to the lofty expectations set for him before the season, but surely he should be getting more playing time than Jeff Smith. This was a day when the passing game fell into a second half slump, and the Jets were already without one of their top receivers in Corey Davis. Benching Moore frequently for somebody like Smith is difficult to fathom.
Some might say this actually was a disciplinary issue. Well if that’s true, they could have left him inactive. Once he’s active, pretending Smith brings more to the table borders on the absurd.
It also seems like a great way to make a delicate situation worse.
Elijah Moore was asked about his on-field chemistry with Zach Wilson:— Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 30, 2022
"I don't even know, I couldn't even tell you. I don't get the ball. I don't know." pic.twitter.com/I4qt96ENrd
Of course the Jets were ahead of schedule and beating all expectations at 5-2. Ugly and disappointing losses are a fact of life in the NFL, even in successful seasons.
All the Jets can do now is refocus because that big game against Buffalo is seven days away. A win against the Bills will make everybody forget about today.