Zach Wilson's disastrous effort provides reprieve for Patriots' own QB chaos

Mac Jones wasn't great on Sunday.

Thankfully for the New England Patriots, Zach Wilson and the New York Jets were considerably worse.

Fresh off igniting a full-blown quarterback controversy, Bill Belichick's Patriots eked out a 22-17 upset of the New York Jets as Jones played quarterback without a peep from backup Bailey Zappe. They can thank Wilson for the reprieve.

The second-year Jets quarterback threw three interceptions on Sunday, including two unforced errors in the second half that subdued any hope of a New York comeback. The effort will fan the flames of New York's own quarterback drama as the Jets are built to win everywhere but the game's most important position.

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) reacts after throwing an interception against the New England Patriots during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Zach Wilson threw three interceptions including two unforced errors that will fan the flames of New York's own quarterback melodrama. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Anchored by a swarming young defense, New York played its way into AFC playoff contention amid a 5-2 start in spite of mediocre play from Wilson and backup Joe Flacco, who took over for three games with Wilson injured. But Wilson's mistakes proved too much to overcome on Sunday.

With New England leading 19-10 late in the third quarter, Wilson rolled out on first-and-10 from New York's 25-yard line. He didn't find an open receiver and opted to throw the ball away as he faced pressure from the Patriots pass rush. Except he didn't throw it away. He lobbed a floater down the sideline that stayed in bounds and up for grabs. Patriots safety Devin McCourty obliged by diving under the ball for an interception.

The Patriots failed to capitalize on the turnover despite the short field, and the Jets faced another chance to cut into their deficit after a New England three-and-out. But Wilson once again found McCourty on the ensuing Jets possession. Facing third-and-7 near midfield, Wilson again rolled out to his right as he faced pressure from New England's pass rush. This time he threw the ball directly to McCourty.

He airmailed a pass in the direction of tight end tight end Tyler Conklin who faced quadruple coverage in the Jets secondary. McCourty snagged his second interception of the day, and the Patriots converted the turnover into a field goal to extend their lead to 22-10.

The Jets scored a last-gasp touchdown with 1:51 remaining. But it was too little, too late as New York failed to convert an onside kick attempt that effectively ended the game.

Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft, finished the day completing 20-of-41 passes for 355 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. He took two sacks for 19 yards. His yardage total was inflated by a come-from-behind effort that saw the Jets abandon the run game in the second half. His sub-50% completion rate and turnovers sealed New York's fate. The loss dropped the Jets to 5-3 and enflamed the scrutiny surrounding Wilson, who's failed to live up to his draft-day billing.

After the game, head coach Robert Saleh declined to single out Wilson for his struggles, telling reporters that the Jets have to to do a "better job and figure out a way to help him." He also acknowledged that Wilson needs to improve.

"He's got to play better," Saleh said. "We've got to find ways to help him."

Wide receiver Elijah Moore, who was targeted just once and failed to secure a catch, was in no mood to defend his quarterback.

"I don't even know," Moore said when asked to describe his chemistry with Wilson. "I couldn't even tell you. I don't get the ball."

For the Patriots, they improve to 4-4 and surely welcome the attention being shifted from their own quarterback chaos. A week after being benched for Zappe, Jones finished the day completing 25-of-41 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was bailed out of his biggest mistake of the game thanks to an even bigger mistake by the Jets.

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Jones threw an interception that cornerback Michael Carter II returned for a touchdown that appeared to secure a 17-3 halftime lead for the Jets. But after the pass, John Franklin-Myers delivered a late hit to Jones that drew a roughing penalty and negated the turnover.

The Patriots capitalized by kicking a field goal before the half. Jones led a touchdown drive to secure a 13-10 Patriots lead on New England's first possession of the second half, and the Jets tried to play catchup for the rest of the game.

It wasn't a strong effort from the Patriots' own 2021 first-round draft pick who drew cheers when he was benched in New England last week. But it was a winning one. And for that, Jones can largely thank his classmate from the 2021 draft.