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Jets' Zach Wilson on Facing Patriots Again: 'I'm Super Excited for This Game'

Second-Year QB Is Looking to Build on His 5-1 Record; a Win Means First Place in AFC East


The institutional memory inside the Jets' locker room is short. It has to be that way. It's a next-game-up mentality, regardless of the opposition and any inference that a single game, even one against the New England Patriots, means more than the next.

That's particularly true for Jets' quarterback Zach Wilson, who is 5-1 since returning from knee surgery that caused him to miss the first three games of the regular season. That one loss, 22-17 to the Patriots on Oct. 30, was just that -- one loss in a 17-game season. Wilson is well aware that his three interceptions in that game handicapped the Jets' hopes of winning the game.

"Yeah, it was frustrating for me," Wilson said on Thursday, referring to that Week 8 game. "My mindset this week is one play at a time, how can I make the best decision on the play, not having to make a big play and trusting in my guys."

To demonstrate the short-term memory aspect of life in the NFL, Wilson and the Jets bounced back against the Bills, as he completed 18-of-25 passes for 154 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions in the Jets' 20-17 win over Buffalo. He played a clean, if unflashy game and had his best completion percentage (72%) and highest passer rating (101.1) of his young career. He piloted the Jets' final 13-play, 86-yard drive that led to Greg Zuerlein's game-winning field goal.

"We're kind of holding him hostage to four, five plays that he had against New England, in my opinion, at least externally," head coach Robert Saleh said this week. "Internally, I think everybody's got a lot of faith in Zach to be able to run this offense and get the ball where it needs to get to and do it in an efficient manner. I do think that if we do need to put it on his back and put it on our receivers backs and put it on the o-line to protect, I think we're capable of doing that. But when you start slinging it around and you ask the quarterback to play 60 plays a game, they're going to make mistakes."

Even New England head coach Bill Belichick had complimentary words for Wilson this week.

"I don't know how you cannot see [Wilson's talent], I mean they've won six games," said Belichick in an interview on "The Greg Hill Show" on WEEI radio in Boston. "He's really athletic, he's got a good arm — made a lot of big plays for them with his legs and his arm."

Wilson and the Jets have no love for Gillette Stadium. It's the place Wilson sustained a knee injury last season that forced him to miss four games. He came back more confident, with a better understanding of the offensive scheme overseen by coordinator Mike LaFleur.

"I've always said it, this kid is very, very resilient," LaFleur said on Thursday. "He cares about winning football games, getting as good as he can possibly be. He cares about his teammates; it's why they believe in this kid so much. He's so resilient, playing his best game against Buffalo and learning from his mistakes. He's a resilient, tough-minded kid and no one is going to break him from that."

See the top photos from Thursday's practice leading up to the road game against New England.

A Jets victory on Sunday would send the Green & White to the top of the AFC East (based on their win over Miami earlier in the season) and would also put an end to a 13-game losing streak to New England. The last time the Jets were in first place in the division in Week 10 or later was at the end of Weeks 10-12 in 2010.

"This is another challenge. a big divisional game for us," Wilson said. "It's not necessary that I have to prove anything or do something different. Just progress. We won a big game [two weeks ago] and now it's on to the next big challenge. I am looking at it that way. I'm super excited for this game."

Wilson has deftly spread the ball around to his wide receivers and tight ends and the entire offense has benefitted from the Jets' running game that is No. 18 in the league.

"He's going to be him, he's going to do him," WR Braxton Berrios said this week. "It's football. Things happen. He has nothing to respond to. Nobody in this locker room is looking at him to respond to anything.

"We're just looking at him just like we're looking at everybody in here just to play their game. Go out, have fun, play ball like you know how. He has all the talent in the world. He knows that. We have to help him out as well. We're not looking at him to respond to anything or to do anything special. Just be him."

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