EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — God bless Zach Wilson.
The Patriots can partially thank the Jets quarterback for a get-right game Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. With a 15-10 Week 3 win over the Jets, the Patriots improved their record to 1-2.
The Patriots essentially closed the game out with Wilson taking a safety when outside linebacker Matthew Judon sacked him in the end zone with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter. The play was emblematic of Wilson’s performance all game.
But like the drenching conditions in New Jersey, it wasn’t always pretty for the Pats. Quarterback Mac Jones’ longest play of the game came on a deep pass to uncovered third tight end Pharaoh Brown.
The Patriots were running out of 13 personnel with one running back, one wide receiver and three tight ends on the field early in the game. So, when Jones faked a handoff to running back Rhamondre Stevenson on first-and-10 on the Patriots’ 42-yard line with 11:49 left in the second quarter, Jets safety Jordan Whitehead crept up to stop the run as he watched Brown sprint by him. Brown caught the ball at the Jets’ 39-yard line and outran the defense before diving into the end zone for the score.
The Patriots otherwise couldn’t get much going on offense against an impressive Jets defense. Jones made some risky decisions while going 15-of-29 for 201 yards with the touchdown. No receiver other than Brown gained more than 46 yards through the air.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott looked the best he’s been all season, carrying the ball 16 times for 80 yards. Stevenson carried the ball 19 times for 59 yards and caught one pass on four targets for 3 yards with a drop.
Rookie kicker Chad Ryland was 2-of-4 on field goals, though both of his misses came after high snaps from long snapper Joe Cardona, who struggled through the wet conditions. Ryland hit field goals of 48 and 51 yards but missed from 48 and 57 yards as head coach Bill Belichick put a lot of faith in the Maryland product.
Wilson was mostly awful, hitting 18-of-34 passes for 157 yards. He never looked comfortable in the pocket and actually sacked himself by sitting down on the turf midway through the first quarter. Outside linebacker Matt Judon got credit for the play. He now has four sacks in three weeks.
The Jets did challenge the Patriots’ stout defense with a 13-play, 84-yard drive that took up the middle part of the fourth quarter. The Patriots appeared to make a third-down stop, but cornerback Myles Bryant was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Fullback Nick Bawden scored on a 1-yard plunge on the next play.
Jets fans — still mourning the loss of starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a torn Achilles four plays into the season — regularly let Wilson hear it, vigorously booing the third-year pro after his regular unsuccessful drives.
The Patriots were daring the Jets to pass the ball early in the game, coming out in an old-school 3-4 base defense. The Jets wouldn’t take the bait, and the Patriots made them pay by limiting running backs to just 38 yards on 22 carries. The two-headed attack of Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook didn’t have a carry over 7 yards.
The Jets’ other score came on a 52-yard field goal by kicker Greg Zuerlein with 1:25 left in the first half. The Jets had converted on fourth-and-1 earlier in the drive but ultimately had to settle for a field goal.
TE Pharaoh Brown: The third-string tight end led all Patriots receivers with 71 yards on two catches. His 58-yard catch-and-run came off of some smart usage of play action out of 13 personnel when the Jets were expecting run. He also added a 13-yard catch.
LB Matthew Judon: Judon finished with two sacks, though he got credit for touching Wilson after the QB had already downed himself on the first one. But Judon regularly brought pressure against a depleted Jets offensive line.
CB Christian Gonzalez: No test is too difficult for the rookie cornerback, who has had to face A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Garrett Wilson in his first three games. Gonzalez helped to neutralize Wilson on Sunday as the Patriots’ defense held him to four catches on seven targets for 19 yards. He also broke up a pass intended for Allen Lazard.
LS Joe Cardona: It was raining pretty hard at times Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but Cardona had two costly high snaps on missed field goals.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: It was another quiet day for the free-agent pickup, who caught one pass on three targets for 5 yards and was penalized for an illegal blindside block. He fell down late in the game when he was targeted on a key third-and-6 pass.
CB Myles Bryant: It was an up-and-down performance for Bryant, forced into outside duties with Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones all out. He had a pass breakup and made a nice tackle on Garrett Wilson midway through the fourth quarter. He whiffed on a tackle later in that same drive and was charged with the pass interference penalty.