Zach Wilson got his first taste of what life would be like playing against Bill Belichick and the Patriots twice a year. Needless to say, it was difficult for him.
Wilson struggled throwing the ball and reading the Patriots’ defense. That resulted in him throwing a whopping four interceptions. Four of his first eight passes were picked off, including his first two of the contest. The Jets scored just six points against the Patriots and lost 25-6 as a result of Wilson’s struggles.
It also illustrates what we already knew: Belichick simply knows how to rattle rookie quarterbacks.
Belichick improved his record against rookie passers to 22-6 via the Patriots’ victory over the Jets. Belichick’s defenses have now allowed just 9.5 points per game in their last six games against rookie quarterbacks. His opponents in those contests include Wilson, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. All were top-10 selections.
The Patriots have also allowed just 20 TD passes to rookie QBs under Belichick. They have recorded a whopping 41 interceptions during that time.
Just how were the Patriots able to make Wilson look so bad on Sunday? There were a few factors in Belichick’s latest victory over a rookie passer.
Patriots took advantage of Wilson’s “aggressive” tendencies
Belichick and the Patriots knew that Wilson had a live arm coming into Sunday’s game agianst the Jets. But J.C. Jackson also knew he could take advantage of the rookie’s playing style.
“He is pretty aggressive. He’s an aggressive quarterback,” Jackson said to reporters after the game. “I was just in the right position to make plays. That’s what I do.”
Indeed, Jackson and Co. were ready for Wilson to take downfield chances. The coaching staff had the team well-positioned to cover Wilson’s top weapons. From there, the defenders were ready to pounce on Wilson’s throws, as Jackson’s duo of picks showcased.
The first interception was a heads-up one by Jackson. One of his Patriots teammates was able to tip the ball to him, as Wilson threw into coverage and the Patriots knocked it into the air. It was Jackson’s second pick of the season and showed off his strong concentration.
Jackson acknowledged in his postgame interview that the first interception probably rattled Wilson. Jackson was involved on another interception, and Belichick credited him with undercutting the route after the game.
So, what’s the best way to sum up the Patriots’ four interceptions?
“We had some opportunities and we took advantage of them,” Belichick said.
That was all a function of being ready for Wilson to make some mistakes.
Patriots rendered Corey Davis a non-factor
Another factor was the Patriots’ plan to limit Corey Davis. He was a the receiver the team keyed on with Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder inactive for the game.
“We knew that Corey Davis was the go-to guy,” Jackson said. “We prepared all week for him.”
It showed. The Patriots consistently surrounded Davis with multiple defenders and forced Wilson to look more at Braxton Berrios and Elijah Moore instead.
Davis was targeted five times during the game, good for the third-most on the Jets. He caught just two passes for eight yards. He also tipped one of his targets into the air on what ended up being Wilson’s second interception of the day.
Davis took responsibility for the interception after the game. He also acknowledged that the Jets’ offense would have to be better if the Jets want a chance to win games earlier.
“It was a rough one for all of us,” Davis said to reporters. “The defense came out and they did their thing. As offense, we’ve got to help them out and help ourselves out.”
MORE: Zach Wilson responds to four-interception day: Fans ‘should be booing’
The Patriots got pass-rush pressure on Wilson
One of the other major reasons that the Patriots defense had success was the performance of their pass rush. Matt Judon and his counterparts were able to get a lot of pressure on Wilson throughout the afternoon. That’s why they were able to sack Wilson four times.
It wasn’t just about the sacks, however. The Patriots got enough pressure to rattle Wilson and speed him up on several throws throughout the game. That included his fourth interception, a dying duck that Devin McCourty grabbed.
It may not seem like much, but Chase Winovich was starting to get free from his block on the play. Wilson felt him coming and got rid of the ball quickly. That resulted in the poor throw and the turnover.
The important thing about the Patriots’ pressure? They got it without blitzing too much. They dialed up blitzes on some plays, including one from Ja’Whaun Bentley on the team’s first interception, but as they built a lead, they continued to get pressure largely rushing four. That allowed them to play seven in coverage and significantly limit Wilson’s open options.
It helped that Wilson continued to hold onto the ball a bit too long, as he did against the Panthers. The Patriots were obviously prepared for that, and that’s part of why they knew they could get pressure while just sending four men after the quarterback.
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