I don’t see how anyone can have a problem with the way Zach Wilson handled this question about his “emotions” after the Patriots game three weeks ago. First because how would someone expect him to react to throwing three picks while completing less than 50% of his passes? Was he supposed to go sharp and do Tom Hanks keyboard dance from Big? If he wasn’t visibly frustrated after the Patriots pass rush broke him down on a molecular level, they’d kill him worse than that. And two, because in any exchange between a sophomore quarterback and the jackals of the New York media, you’re naturally going to side with the kid versus the toner-stained wretches every time.
Besides, the biggest problem isn’t Wilson’s feelings, to weep bitterly. Which is such a 2020s approach to cover an athlete, anyway. Call me fixed in my ways, but I yearn for the days when, say, Ken Stabler dragged his battered body off the field covered in mud and blood, and everyone respected that his needs weren’t both emotional and whiskey, a few percs, a few lung darts and a few Stanford coeds with their panties nailed to the wall of his hotel. Say “OK, Boomer” as much as you want. But those were simpler times.
The real issue shouldn’t be Wilson’s emotional IQ. It’s those much more measurable and relevant metrics involving the Patriots’ defense. Because more than any team he’s faced in his short career, New England plays him like they have the cheat codes. Although it’s the Patriots, I probably shouldn’t even use that term jokingly or it will cost them draft picks. But it is correct:
And while there are several reasons for these choices, including but not limited to the disguise of the covers, the mixing of fronts and looks that Wilson is not used to, the change in the scheme set to game and simply pure talent, there was one overriding factor:
Wilson is especially bad when under pressure. The Patriots front is among the best at generating it. It’s a brutal combination of factors for the Jets.
And it’s not just blitz. In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, in the last meeting Wilson backed up 43 times and Steve Belichick only sent extra rushers 14 times. It’s less than a third of his passing shots. Still, he pressured him 18 times. During which he completed just 25% of his passes, threw all three of his interceptions (and one touchdown), had 5.4 yards per attempt and a 31.0 passer rating.
On the season, among QBs with 65 or more total backs, he’s 39th in passer ratings when under pressure, with 6.6. Note that these are not typos. It’s the 39th. And 6.6.
For his career against New England, his numbers are practically worse across the board:
WL: 0-3, 45 for 84, 53.57%, 2 TD, 7 INT, 50.5 passer rating
Than against the rest of the NFL:
WL: 8-8, 264 for 466, 56.65%, 11 TD, 9 INT, 71.4 passer rating (including NE).
Similarly, 7 of his 56 career sacks, or 12.5% catches, have come in the three games against the Patriots. Whose pass defense has the fifth-lowest passer rating against the NFL at 75.7. And despite only playing nine games, he’s second in the league in sacks, second in sack percentage, second in pressures, first in pressure percentage and fourth in steals.
All of this would just be me diving on the Jets if it was another season. This is obviously not the case. With it’s almost Thanksgiving and the Patriots in the bizarre position of watching the Jets undercarriage in the AFC East orgy:
So for them, getting Zach Wilson to play like he’s played against them so far is mission critical. Win and they edge out the Jets in the playoff race. Lose, and they’re a .500 team against the toughest remaining schedule in the league. You could say it puts pressure on them. But this weekend, it’s all about putting the pressure on. For a guy who has yet to show he can handle it. Hit that damn ball already.