FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Zach Wilson and the New York Jets had a chance to leave Gillette Stadium in first place in the AFC East.
Instead, they slid to the bottom of the division with another disappointing loss to the New England Patriots.
New York’s inability to finish drives on offense proved costly on the scoreboard and the playoff picture as New England beat the Jets for the 14th straight time with a 10-3 victory Sunday. Rookie Marcus Jones’ 84-yard punt return for a touchdown ruined a solid effort by New York’s defense.
“The season isn’t over with. There’s still plenty of football left to play,” said defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, who had one of the Jets’ six sacks of Mac Jones.
A win over New England would have moved New York into first place in the AFC East this late in the season for the first time since 2010. Instead, being swept the Patriots could make the push to end an 11-year postseason drought tougher.
“It was a frustrating day,” said Wilson, who quickly replied, “No” when asked if he and the offense let the defense down.
New York managed just 103 yards and six first downs, and failed to find the end zone for the second time this season.
The defense did its part in containing Jones and the Patriots. But Wilson was just 9 of 22 for 77 yards and had 26 of New York’s 59 yards on the ground. In the second half, the Jets had just 2 yards on seven possessions.
“We’ve got to do some digging, watch the film, and see what we can come up with,” Wilson said.
When the Patriots won the first matchup of the season three weeks ago, the Jets were able to move the ball but were undone by three interceptions thrown by Wilson — who also had a career-best 355 yards. Sunday’s rematch featured a stark departure as the Jets gained minus-8 yards over their first five possessions of the second half. The windy conditions were a factor, perhaps more for the Patriots as the normally reliable Nick Folk missed two field goals.
“There are times when you can’t take shots down the field,” Wilson said.
Despite the shortcomings on offense, the Jets had a chance to win.
They got the ball on the New England 20-yard line with 1:52 remaining — but the drive started on an all-too-familiar note as Wilson came up empty on first and second down. But New York received a fresh set of downs after the Patriots were flagged for defensive holding on third down.
The momentum of Michael Carter’s 8-yard run on first down quickly faded as the Jets found themselves facing a third-and-1. And the final snap taken by the offense featured a completion that summed up the unit’s struggles.
Wilson hit Carter near the sideline with a short pass and the Patriots dropped the running back for a 2-yard loss.
“We called a play for a guy in a boundary,” Wilson said. “They gave us a coverage where I couldn’t work it, so I just — the play that we called was, I was trying to get the ball to (Tyler Conklin). They pretty much double-teamed him.”
Added coach Robert Saleh: “We wanted to finish the game with the ball. Obviously, in a perfect situation, it would have been with the ball and a chance to kick it for the win. But it didn’t work out.”
Instead of getting another crack in overtime, the Jets watched in horror as a gaffe on special teams unfolded at the worst possible time.
“This is unacceptable, no one wants to feel like this,” rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. “It is just not enough.”
The Jets sacked Jones 12 times in two games this season, but the offense couldn’t make nearly enough plays. New York made one trip into the red zone and went 3 of 14 on third down.
“I thought the defense was outstanding. I thought our D-line got after it,” Saleh said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to look at to see if we can find some efficiency in the offense.”