In week eight, the Jets outgained the Patriots by nearly 100 yards (387 to 288) while racking up six sacks and 13 tackles for loss. They also averaged 17.8 yards on Zach Wilson's 20 pass completions as Garrett Wilson had 115 yards on six catches and Tyler Conklin had 79 yards on his six grabs with 2 TDs. And despite winning in several areas, they dropped a 22-17 decision at MetLife Stadium.
"Yeah, New England's been that way forever," Jets head coach Robert Saleh told reporters on Monday, the players' first day back at practice after a week off. "You walk away [after playing New England] and say, 'man if we don't just do this.' They do it all the time, they force you into mistakes, force you to shoot yourself in your foot."
The Patriots have won 13 consecutive games in the series since 2015, up there and down here. But these aren't the Same Old Jets. Not by a longshot. General manager Joe Douglas has rebuilt the roster through free agency and two extremely productive drafts. That means the institutional memory is minimal.
"The advantage of youth is that they're not connected to all the history, what the organization has gone through," Saleh said. "They don't know any better, they don't have the scarring or the idea of what's supposed to happen. They know they're talented enough that if they don't make mistakes, we're going to be tough to beat. It's what they know. It's what we know."
As the Jets seek to end that streak and split the season series, they are 2-1 in AFC East games so far and are seeking their sixth victory in the conference. And although Wilson threw 3 INTs vs. NE, he has has played clean games in four other contests; he has a 5-1 record overall.
"[People are] holding him hostage for four, five plays against New England, externally," Saleh said. "Internally we have a lot of faith in Zach to do it in an efficient manner. If we need to put it on his back, he's capable of doing it, but when you sling around there's going to make mistakes. It's hard to play quarterback in this league. It's our job to make sure he's not asked to do that constantly, but if asked we're confident he can do it."
On the injury front, Saleh said that veteran wide receiver Corey Davis (knee) is day-to-day. The coach said that Davis remained at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center working out during the bye week. In addition, rookie offensive lineman Max Mitchell is off the injured list, opening his 21-day practice window. Finally, OL George Fant (knee) remains sidelined, and DL Sheldon Rankins (elbow) is out.
In Zach They Trust
When it comes to Zach Wilson, a small sampling of his teammates shared their thoughts on the Jets' second-year quarterback in strikingly similar terms on Monday, their first day back at 1 Jets Drive after a week off.
"Extreme confidence," said wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
"Ultimate confidence," said center Connor McGovern.
Wilson's two colleagues on offense said all concerned are eager to wipe away the bad taste from their loss to New England -- Sunday's opposition in Foxborough, MA -- after their 22-17 loss on Oct. 30. In that game, Wilson, who had been nearly impeccable since returning from knee surgery, tossed three interceptions.
"Extreme confidence, and everyone feels that way," Berrios said. "There's no flinching on that from anyone in the building. It's not an exaggeration. This game is played by some of the best athletes in the world and it gets lost that Zach's one of those. Things happen, there are ups and downs, but we have extreme confidence in him. We've seen day in and day out and he's the same guy every day."
Since he missed the first three games of the season, Wilson has led the Jets to wins at Pittsburgh, over Miami, at Green Bay, at Denver and over AFC East rival Buffalo, which has now lost two straight and fallen out of first place. A Jets (6-3) victory at New England (5-4) would vault the Green & White into first place in the division, by virtue of the victory over Miami (7-3). The Dolphins have won four straight but are off on Sunday.
"He's going to do what it takes to win," McGovern said of Wilson. "In some games he's had to use his arm, and it's lucky for the offensive line because it's easier to run block than pass block. It's every O-lineman's dream to run the ball out in the fourth quarter and win."
That is exactly what the Jets did in their final drive to the winning field goal against the Bills. They ran the ball eight-straight times to start the 13-play, 86-yard statement drive that ate up more than 6 minutes off the clock.
"His confidence level is extremely high," McGovern said. "He's playing at another level compared to last year. He understands doesn't have to throw 50 times for 4 TDs the way this team is playing. If he has to turn it on, the O-line will hold up and his arm will do the job. There's definitely a ton of confidence, even if he hasn't had to use it. It's one of the cards in the deck for sure."
MC II Says 'Best Is Still to Come'
With eight games left on their regular-season schedule (5 away, 3 at MetLife Stadium), Jets defensive back Michael Carter II acknowledges that in the AFC East, the Jets reside in one of the league's most rugged divisons. A win at New England would increase the Jets' road record to 5-0, which would equal the best road start in franchise history. The Jets opened the 2001 season 5-0 away from home en route to 7-1, and also went 5-0 on the road in 2010 en route to 6-2
"We're definitely looking forward to it," Carter II said, referring to the rematch. "I feel like it's definitely an important game. It's the next one in the division and we have to go out and continue to show we're able to play our best football -- and the best still to come. It comes with preparation, detail and execution. We have to be a little bit better at it."
In a play that had an impact on the outcome against the Patriots, the second-year slot cornerback returned an interception for a TD. But it was nullified by a penalty.
As far as the overall defense is concerned, the Jets have been pretty darn good through nine games this season. They are ranked seventh in total defense. The Green & White is also tied for the NFL lead averaging 9.3 points per fourth quarter, and have given up only 2.9 points, tied for the second-least.
"I feel like we have to take it," he said, referring to the Pats game. "We haven't accomplished anything. We have to remain humble. We're still not where we want to be. These eight games will decide a lot and we have to keep playing like we have something to prove."
All four teams in the AFC East have winning records, the only division in the NFL that can make that claim 10 days before Thanksgiving.
"I feel like a lot of people say games are lost, not won," he said. "I feel like New England took advantage of our mistakes like any good team should. We just have to be able to execute and not make as many mistakes."