EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Mac Jones was smart and efficient, Damien Harris and James White had touchdown runs and the New England Patriots took advantage of a nightmarish outing by Zach Wilson in a 25-6 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
With the spotlight on the Mac vs. Zach matchup of rookie first-round quarterbacks, it was Jones who shined as Wilson was intercepted four times — twice by J.C. Jackson.
Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in the draft, went 22 of 30 for 186 yards for the Patriots (1-1) a week after going 29 for 39 for 281 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Miami. Sunday’s numbers were more than good enough for New England to beat New York for the 11th straight game.
Especially with Wilson throwing the ball to the wrong team in the home opener for the Jets (0-2), who have lost 11 straight in September.
It got so bad early in the fourth quarter when the No. 2 overall draft pick overthrew a receiver, the crowd at MetLife Stadium — boisterous and excited early at their first game since Dec. 22, 2019, because of the pandemic — began booing the young QB.
Wilson (19 of 33 for 210 yards and the four INTs) struggled right away, and the troubles might have been expected. Bill Belichick improved to 22-6 against rookie quarterbacks since taking over as Patriots coach in 2000.
After Marcus Maye’s sack pushed the Patriots out of field goal position on their opening possession, the Jets got the ball at their 8. Wilson threw downfield to Corey Davis in traffic and Jackson tipped it into the air, Devin McCourty deflected it and the ball landed in Jackson’s hands.
The Patriots capitalized with Nick Folk’s 46-yard field goal.
Wilson’s second pass was also picked off, this time Adrian Phillips grabbing the ball after the high throw went off Davis’ hands. New England got into the end zone, with White running it in up the middle for a 10-0 lead.
Wilson finally completed a pass to a teammate early in the second quarter, a 27-yard toss to a wide-open Elijah Moore. Despite the big gain, it should have been more — Wilson’s pass led Moore to the sideline rather than downfield, where he might have had a touchdown.
The Jets got down to the Patriots 8 and ran three times before settling for Matt Ammendola’s 21-yard field goal.
Wilson made another poor decision on New York’s next drive at the Patriots 28, an underthrown pass to Moore that was easily picked off by Jackson again.
Wilson was the first player since at least 1991 to throw INTs on each of his first two pass attempts in a game, according to NFL Research. He was also the first player since at least ’91 to throw three INTs in his first five pass attempts in a game.
The fourth interception opened the second half when he floated a pass downfield that was easily picked off by McCourty. Two plays later, Harris shed what appeared to be seven — yes, seven! — tackle attempts by the Jets for a 26-yard touchdown.
After Ammendola missed a 53-yarder, Jones marched the Patriots downfield again and Folk, a former Jet, made a 32-yarder. It was Folk’s franchise-record 32nd consecutive field goal.
With Wilson struggling, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy — inactive with a throat injury — took to Twitter and got social media buzzing.
“Ghosts again?!?” Van Noy tweeted in the third quarter.
He was referring, of course, to former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold being caught on TV saying he felt as though he was “seeing ghosts” in New England’s 33-0 rout in Week 7 of the 2019 season.
The Jets trailed only 13-3 at halftime, but history showed the Patriots had it all but wrapped up. New England has won 41 consecutive games when leading by double digits after two quarters, the NFL’s longest such active streak.
Patriots: RT Trent Brown sat with a calf injury, and replacement Yasir Durant was benched in the second half after allowing three sacks. Durant was replaced by Dustin Herron.
Jets: WR Jamison Crowder was a surprise scratch with a groin injury after he said Friday he felt good and expected to play.
Patriots: host the New Orleans Saints next Sunday.
Jets: head to Denver next Sunday.
Story by Dennis Waszak Jr., AP Pro Football Writer