EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Mac Jones said he began preparing for the Jets mere hours after losing his first NFL game last weekend.
On Sunday, his rookie counterpart looked like he had rolled out of bed and just picked up a football.
The Patriots intercepted Jets quarterback Zach Wilson four times in an ugly 25-6 affair at MetLife Stadium, their first road game of the season. New York stumbled and bumbled in all three phases, looking every bit the same old Jets, despite a new coach and quarterback. Jones again produced a tidy stat line, going 22-of-30 for 186 yards, while Wilson finished with a passer rating south of 40.
More efficient than either passer were Pats running backs Damien Harris and James White, who scored both of the game’s touchdowns. Harris, whose late-game fumble sealed the Miami loss, unleashed all his frustration with a monstrous 26-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that shed eight Jets tacklers. His burst followed a short score from White in the first half.
White also led the Pats with six catches and 45 receiving yards. His numbers reflected how Jones was forced to combat constant pressure with short, quick throws underneath. Without starting right tackle Trent Brown, reserves Yasir Durant and Justin Herron yielded several hurries and contributed to three allowed sacks.
At least the Pats’ problems were confined to one position group. The Jets sprung leaks everywhere for four quarters, including missed tackles, a missed field goal, four sacks allowed and two turnovers on downs.
It was never worse than at the start, when Wilson found Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson and safety Adrian Phillips with his first two pass attempts. Ahead 3-0 after Wilson’s second pick, White ripped off a 28-yard catch-and-run to get the Patriots back into Jets territory late in the first quarter. Four snaps later, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a double-pass involving Jones, White and tight end Jonnu Smith for a 19-yard gain.
White then knocked out a bamboozled Jets defense with back-to-back runs, the latter a 7-yard touchdown.
Trailing 10-0, Gang Green finally managed a scoring drive sustained by a busted coverage that allowed rookie wideout Elijah Moore to escape for 27 yards. After a short completion, the Jets called four straight runs inside the red zone, the last a third-and-goal hand-off at the Patriots’ 2-yard line. Recognizing New York’s lack of trust in Wilson, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy combined to throw Jets running back Ty Johnson for a 1-yard loss.
Jets kicker Matt Ammendola then drilled a 21-yarder. While the Pats failed to convert Wilson’s next pick into immediate points, a right sideline donation to Jackson, it didn’t matter. Their defense forced a punt seconds outside the 2-minute warning, and kicker Nick Folk hit a 49-yarder to lift the Patriots to a 10-point lead at halftime.
Breaking from the locker room, Wilson needed less than four minutes to fire his fourth and final pick, an overthrow to Devin McCourty. Two snaps after McCourty’s long return, Harris barreled through the left side of the Jets defense, leaving no doubt who still owns this divisional rivalry.
Folk later hit from 32 and 29 yards away, bookending Ammendola’s second make.
Here were the best and worst Patriot performances from Sunday:
RB James White At one point, White accounted for more than half of the Pats’ total offense and all of their points. He ran, caught and passed the ball. Hats off to the captain.
CB J.C. Jackson Late in the second quarter, Jackson had caught as many of Wilson’s passes as Jets receivers did. That’s elite cornerback play.
OL Yasir Durant The Pats’ new starting right tackle allowed two sacks on the same series. No wonder he was benched.
Run defense The Jets averaged 4.9 yards per rush en route to 152 yards on the ground. Even if the Patriots were happy to let the clock run in the fourth quarter, their defensive front could tighten some screws.