BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
With five seconds to go in the game on Sunday, the unthinkable happened.
Marcus Jones ran for an 84-yard touchdown punt return – the first touchdown punt return of the season in the NFL – giving the New England Patriots a 10-3 victory over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. It was the only exciting development in what was otherwise a terribly played game. Of course, this would happen to the Jets.
Not even the Patriots and Jones figured this would be the outcome. The Pats were hoping Jones would milk out the clock and take their chances in overtime.
Patriots fans were delirious and Jets fans were understandably stunned. This game deserved to end with a tie, considering how badly the Patriots and Jets played.
The Jets fans saw it all. They saw the Marino spike, buttfumble and now the punt return — all ignominious moments in Jets history. Of course, of all people, they shouldn’t be surprised. It’s part of the Jets life where everything goes wrong, especially when the team lost its 14th straight to a team New York loves to hate – the Patriots.
We can criticize Braden Mann for not kicking it out of bounds. We can say, “Same Old Jets.” But this is missing the point.
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was the main reason the Jets lost this game. He delivered an incompetent performance by completing 9 -of-22 for 77 yards with a QB rating of 50.8, and he helped the Jets to score only three points in this game. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he completed 4-of-9 to targets with three yards of separation. He completed 4-of-11 for 12 yards in the second half. He couldn’t even complete 10 passes or throw for 80-plus yards. The Jets have had as many first downs as they have had sacks with six. The Jets punted ten times, which is a greater number than their nine completions.
Do you get the picture now?
Despite how awfully he played, he had a couple chances to be a hero at the end of the game. With the score tied at 3 and 4:15 remaining on the clock, the second-year Jets quarterback threw an incomplete pass directed to Ty Johnson at 2nd and 13 at the Jets’ 30. He followed that up by being sacked on third down.
With the Patriots going three-and-out, Wilson had another chance to shine. He was almost intercepted in a pass to Denzel Mims that was dropped by Jonathan Jones. Sacked following the next play, he redeemed himself when refs called holding on Jones, giving the Jets a first down. Rather than let him throw, the Jets used Michael Carter to run the ball with no success, which set the stage for the ludicrous ending.
We shouldn’t have been surprised that the second-year Jets quarterback was not up for the challenge. By the fourth quarter, the Patriots defense was in his head. He was overwhelmed and just couldn’t handle the pressure. He has no idea how to lead in that spot. All that was missing was a claim like Sam Darnold’s (as a Jets quarterback after his matchup with the Patriots): he “saw ghosts.”
Wilson offered nothing in the second half, and that should have been a sign not to get our hopes up for him in his last two chances of the game. He had five three-and-outs in that half. He couldn’t even throw short passes.
When the Jets had the ball to start the second half, and with the game tied at 3, the Jets quarterback put on an inept display. He threw the ball over Braxton Berrios’ head, handed the ball to Carter for a gain of three and then he got sacked for the loss of 9. This set the tone for what was a lousy second half, and it symbolized what was a lousy day for him.
Shoot, it may have been telling how the game was going to go when the Jets didn’t even trust Wilson to operate the offense with 19 seconds left in the half. It was a chance to get into field goal range and take the lead heading to the locker room. But the Jets coaching staff feared the quarterback would fumble or throw an interception that could have put the game away for good, so they settled with running down the clock.
If the Jets can’t trust Wilson in that spot, when can they trust him in any spot? You tell me.
It got a lot worse after the game. The Jets quarterback managed to make a fool out of himself in the presser. He was asked if he let the defense down, and he replied defiantly that he had not. He also made excuses, such as it was windy, and that Patriots quarterback Mac Jones did not play any better
According to SportsNet New York’s Connor Hughes, Wilson apparently walked around the locker room as if he was not the problem. He did not seem to have any remorse that he failed his own defense, even before the presser.
It is remarkable that Wilson would have the chutzpah to behave this way after such a terrible loss in which he played such a disappointing role. Basically, he blamed the defense rather than himself. His play has already alienated his teammates, and his attitude is not helping.
He should not be so arrogant and act as though he is accomplishing something in the NFL, when he is ranked 32nd in pass rating at 72.6, ranked 33rd with 55.6 percent in completion percentage and ranked 31st in pass touchdown attempts rating at 2.1%.
Jets general manager Joe Douglas should shoulder the blame for making Wilson feel so entitled. He received the starting quarterback job without earning it last season, and the Jets front office does not want him benched in order to enforce the idea they want to get it right with their draft pick. I find it hard to believe that Jets head coach Robert Saleh wanted to play him in the fourth quarter considering how bad he had played all game, but he cannot bench him without collaborating with the front office, so he had no choice but to continue playing with his immature quarterback.
Unless Wilson manages to grow up, it’s hard to take him seriously as a quarterback. Being a quarterback is not just putting up numbers and winning games. It’s about being a leader. It’s about being tough under duress. It’s about earning respect from the rest of the 52-man roster. It’s about being prepared and ready to go on gameday. It’s about working hard at practice.
It seems Wilson is none of those things. As badly as Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Darnold played as Jets quarterbacks, they at least showed grit out there and won some games. No one can say the same about Wilson. Not even Douglas, no matter how much he hopes to get it right with his quarterback.
Here is the book on Wilson: He cannot throw under adversity. He has zero self-awareness. He has no maturity when it comes to being a quarterback.
Fortunately for him, he has seven more games to make it count, even though he doesn’t deserve this opportunity.
If he plays like he did on Sunday the rest of the way, we will be asking ourselves: What will it take to get Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this offseason?
If he plays as he did on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, he may not even get another chance to play the rest of the season.
This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6