Zach Wilson did not have the day he expected or the performance the Jets needed against New England at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
The Jets (5-3) entered the game riding a four-game winning streak with Wilson, who returned from a knee injury sustained in the preseason, at the offensive controls. Before the 22-17 loss to the Patriots, Wilson had not thrown an interception for the past three games. Chased much of the afternoon by the New England (4-4) defense, he threw three picks.
"We just got to rally around him, we got to figure out how to make it not necessarily simpler, but just helping him to continue to progress and evolve, he's still a young man," Jets HC Robert Saleh said after the game, speaking of Wilson. "You know playing quarterback in this league is not easy.
"And we just got to collect it and we just got to do what we got to do better for him and then obviously you just got to be able to do it for plus four weeks in total. Just doing the simple stuff, not putting too much pressure on yourself to do more than you need to. But we'll continue to work with him. And we've got all faith in the world in him and we've just going to continue to find ways to do better."
The Jets' offense entered the game without the services of two important players: rookie RB Breece Hall, who sustained an ACL tear in last week's win at Denver; and versatile second-year OL Alijah Vera Tucker, who sustained a torn triceps against the Broncos. In addition, Wilson and the Green & White (at least in this game) played minus veteran outside receiver Corey Davis.
Wilson's assessment was short and to the point after the game: "I have to do better."
Before Sunday's loss, the Jets' 13th straight to New England, the team had put together three "quadruple zero" games -- no interceptions, fumbles (lost or otherwise) or takeaways -- in succession. In franchise history, the Jets had done that once before -- in two regular-season games and one playoff game in 2000.
Inopportune decisions by Wilson against New England, however, were impossible to overcome.
The first miscue, a pass intended for RB Ty Johnson that was picked off by Ja'Whaun Bentley late in the second quarter, led to a Nick Folk field goal to end the half and cut the Jets' lead to 10-6. After the Pats built a 19-10 lead late in the third quarter, and on the first play of the Jets next drive, Wilson was again flushed out of the pocket and released a pass off his back foot that was intercepted by Devin McCourty at the Jets' 40. The defense held.
Addressing the plays, Wilson said: "I don't let that stuff bother me, we're still moving the ball. I had some bonehead plays. On the second interception, I meant to throw it faster."
The third INT (another by McCourty) came along the sideline early in the fourth quarter, as the Jets hoped that another fourth-quarter rally, like the ones in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, was about to happen.
"After that play, I felt sick coming off the field," Wilson said. "I can't do that; you know put my defense in a bad situation [at the Jets' 37]. But you know all day, I didn't feel like I let that stuff bother me."
See the best images from the Week 8 matchup between the Jets and Patriots.
Another successful Folk field goal, his fifth of the day, made the score 22-10. Wilson's late TD pass to TE Tyler Conklin, their second TD connection of the game, left a sliver of hope that was extinguished when Braden Mann's onside kick was recovered by the visitors.
Wilson finished 20 of 41 (the most passes he's thrown this season) for 355 yards, 2 TDs and the 3 INTs.
"He has to play better," Saleh said.
On Wilson's miscues after being flushed out of the pocket, Saleh said: "We have to figure it out." He added: "The line of scrimmage goes around the globe; he can throw it in the stands if he wants to. We will help him figure it out and get it fixed.
"We've got faith in Z, he's played good football and taken care of the football since he came back. He's shown flashes of good football. Everyone in the locker room still has his back."
In conclusion, Saleh said: "We just have to rally around him, figure it out and to continue to progress and evolve."