EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The walls were closing in.
Bill Belichick was 0-2 for the first time in 22 years. A third loss would have ended all playoff hope, and put Bill at 0-3 for the first time since 2000, when he started 0-4 and finished 5-11.
“In Bill We Trust” was no longer rolling off the tongues of Patriot fans. New England’s 71-year-old coach was taking sports talk fire from morning drive through dinner hour with Felger and Mazz.
A few card-carrying Fellowship of the Miserables believed we might be watching the end of Bill. Some foolishly envisioned Bob Kraft relieving Bill of his command, like when President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur in 1951. Was Belichick going to be forced out in Nixonian fashion, flashing one last victory sign, then stepping into a helicopter on the South Lawn of Gillette? A Woody Hayes flameout, perhaps? Something akin to Colonel Nathan Jessup having his rights read to him by Kevin Bacon?
No, no, no, no. A thousand times no.
Realists and veteran Patriot watchers knew Bill and his Patriots were going to be OK. For one more week, anyway. There was simply no way the Patriots could lose a third straight game in September.
J-E-T-S. Jets, Jets, Jets.
In a game that may have set back the sport a few decades, the Patriots defeated the Jets, 15-10, at MetLife Stadium Sunday. It had the flow and elegance of the Monster Jam World Finals. And it marked the 15th consecutive Belichick victory over the team he hates the most.
At game’s end, I’m pretty sure Bill winked at his assistant coach sons and mumbled, “We’ll always have the Jets.’’
There is no bad like Jet bad. We can congratulate New England’s impressive defense, but it’s hard to give too much credit for stopping a Jet offense that dissolved on opening night when savior quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles’ on the fourth offensive play of the season.
Now there is nothing. Poor Zach Wilson (QB rating of 53.4 in five games vs. the Patriots — all losses) was as bad at it gets in the rainy, windy conditions, particularly in the first two quarters. Wilson holds on to the ball too long and takes unnecessary sacks. In the first half, he threw for 29 yards and compiled 39 yards of offense. Midway through the fourth the Jets had eight punts and four first downs.
Belichick knows how to wins games like this: field possession, special teams, ball security, and defense. New England did not have a lead in season-opening losses to the Eagles and Dolphins. The Pats fell behind Philly, 16-0, and Miami, 10-0. New England turned it over three times in the first quarters of those games.
“The most important thing is points,’’ Hoodie said after beating his friendly New Jersey cousins. “The second most important thing is turnovers.’’
True to old form, New England won the toss, deferred, kicked off, and had the Jets pinned in their end for almost the entire first half. The Pats took a 10-0 lead on an early field goal and a stunning broken-coverage TD pass from Mac Jones to Pharaoh Brown. The Jets staggered to a field goal before intermission.
Wilson was better in the second half, but the Patriots were never threatened. Not even when the Jets were within a touchdown and had the ball multiple times in the fourth.
Here’s an alarming development: Matthew Judon sacked Wilson in the end zone to make it 15-10 with 2:19 left, but Jones couldn’t eat clock or sustain a drive that would have ended it the easy way. Instead, the Patriots let the Jets have the ball two more times and it wasn’t over until a Wilson Hail Mary attempt failed at the buzzer. But it did not fail by much.
I’m not sure Patriot fans feel very good after this one (Where have you gone, Matt Patricia? Patriot Nation turns its lonely eyes to you). The Patriots only won because the Jets are forever the Jets.
“It was just one of those messy games,’’ submitted Patriots center David Andrews.
“A good win for us today down here,’’ Belichick said to start his postgame presser. “The Jets are always tough.’’
Maybe. But they always lose to the Patriots.
And on this day, Belichick needed them more than ever.
Read more Patriots coverage:
- It wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots got their first win of the season in beating the inept Jets
- A victory over the Jets is no indication if the Patriots are trending in the right direction
- Jets say they are standing by Zach Wilson, but it’s time to sit him down and find another quarterback | Ben Volin
- In a surprising twist, Pharaoh Brown — the third tight end — is an offensive spark for the Patriots
- Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner claims Patriots quarterback Mac Jones hit him with a low blow
- The Patriots dug in on defense, then held on for 15th consecutive victory over the Jets