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By: Michael Nania
NY Jets QB Zach Wilson must follow the right blueprint to take down New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have been Zach Wilson‘s nemesis since the New York Jets drafted him in 2021. Wilson has thrown 7 of his 16 career interceptions against Bill Belichick’s squad. He has a 2-to-7 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions against New England compared to an 11-to-9 ratio in all other games.
Can Wilson finally break free of the curse Belichick cast on him?
New York fans are praying Wilson will do just that on Sunday. If Wilson puts together a performance that can at least be considered respectable, the Jets will have a great chance to exit Week 11 in possession of first place in the AFC East.
When Wilson marches into Gillette Stadium tomorrow, protecting the football needs to be his main priority. The Jets likely would have beaten the Patriots by multiple scores back in Week 8 had Wilson not tossed three interceptions. New York looked like the more talented team. Wilson cannot give New England the momentum-swinging plays that allow them to overcome the talent gap.
Now, this does not mean Wilson should play a risk-free game. He is going to have to take chances and make big-time throws against this aggressive, man-heavy Patriots defense.
The key for Wilson is not to avoid taking risks and challenging the defense downfield. Rather, the key is to simply cut out the egregious turnovers.
Some types of interceptions are going to happen for every quarterback. For example, Wilson’s first interception against the Patriots in Week 8 occurred because he was pressured and threw the ball off his back foot, causing him to sail the pass. His read on that play was correct, though. You would like to see Wilson show a better reaction to the pressure in that situation, but these picks will happen sometimes (although you want to minimize them as best you can).
Wilson’s next two picks, on the other hand, were completely inexcusable. His second interception was an attempted throwaway in which he did not throw the ball far enough out of bounds. It just seemed somewhat lazy. His third interception was a prayer heaved up into a crowd of Patriots that had little-to-no chance of being caught by a Jet. On that one, it seemed like Wilson was getting desperate since the Jets were trailing and had gone a long period of time without scoring.
When a play is clearly dead, Wilson must be willing to throw the ball away. There is no need for unnecessary risk-taking when you have an elite defense behind you. As long as the ball is protected, the Jets should pull away eventually. Stay patient and let the game play out.
Wilson did exactly this in the Jets’ next game against the Buffalo Bills. It seemed like he had learned from every mistake he made against New England.
Against Buffalo, Wilson got the ball out quickly and avoided hectic scrambling situations. He eagerly threw the ball away when things were getting out of hand. Finally, he threw the ball away with purpose, making sure to completely eliminate any chance of the defense making a play.
Wilson finished the game with no interceptions (although he did lose a fumble) and that proved extremely valuable. It allowed the Jets to keep the game from getting out of hand after Buffalo took control early on. The Jets eventually overcame a 14-3 deficit to defeat a fantastic Bills team.
It was Josh Allen, not Zach Wilson, who made the most mistakes in the Buffalo game. The Jets are going to win a very high percentage of the games where the opponent’s quarterback commits more bone-headed blunders than Wilson. In fact, they’re 5-0 this year when Wilson throws fewer INTs than the other team.
Wilson must ensure the same thing happens again on Sunday when he goes head-to-head with the turnover-prone Mac Jones, who owns the highest interception rate of any quarterback in the NFL this season at 4.2%. Wilson needs to let Jones be the guy who throws the game away. If Wilson wins the staring contest – allowing Jones to blink first – good things should happen for New York.
Jets fans could not have asked for Wilson to showcase a more promising follow-up to his Patriots debacle. Wilson was clearly making a conscious effort to build upon all of the negatives from the previous week. It was staggering to see how much progress he made within one week.
Can he maintain that progress against this very same Patriots team just two games later?
On the newest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, we discuss what Zach Wilson must do to have a successful game against New England, in addition to mapping out the Jets’ ideal offensive and defensive gameplans.
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Originally posted on Jets X-Factor