EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Robert Saleh was an assistant in Jacksonville the previous time the New York Jets defeated the New England Patriots. Zach Wilson was a sophomore in high school.
None of the other players on the Jets’ current roster were there to witness that rare victory, either.
It came on Dec. 27, 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker to win it 26-20 in overtime for then-coach Todd Bowles’ squad.
Yep, it certainly has been a while.
Bill Belichick’s bunch has rattled off 14 consecutive victories over the AFC East-rival Jets, a streak the Patriots (0-2) bring to MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
“It’s time that things change around here,” second-year wide receiver Garrett Wilson said on ESPN New York’s “Bart & Hahn” show this week. “I don’t like talking about it too much, but this is one of the first steps. Fourteen straight is unacceptable. That’s unacceptable. I’m 0-2 against them.
It’s also a slump the Jets (1-1) are aiming to stop, and not so much just because it’s the Patriots. But because it would put them back on the winning track after an ugly loss in Dallas — and make them 2-0 in the division after an opening-week win over Buffalo.
“We’ve got to focus on the moment,” said Saleh, who’s 0-4 against the Patriots as coach of the Jets. “I get what happened in the past, but looking at the past and dwelling on the past and what could have been is just taking away from what we can do now.”
Zach Wilson will make his second start in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, who had surgery last week to repair a torn left Achilles tendon. The Patriots have been particularly rough on Wilson, who has two touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 50.6 while completing just 50.9% of his passes in four games against them.
“I get it, we acknowledge it,” Saleh said, “but at the same time, it doesn’t define this group today, with the group that we have, the 2023 Jets.”
Meanwhile, the Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since 2001 — Belichick’s second year with the franchise. That team, with the emergence of Tom Brady, went on to win the Super Bowl.
New England is looking to avoid its first 0-3 start since Belichick’s first season, when the Patriots opened 0-4 and finished 5-11.
“We’ve got 15 more games to play,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “We’ve got a game this weekend. It’s another opportunity. It’s a divisional opponent. It’s a good opponent. On the road. It’ll be us kind of against everybody going in there. So, I think it’ll be a good challenge.”
Despite the deflating loss of Rodgers in the opener and a rough defeat in Dallas last week, the Jets have a chance to feel pretty good about things if they can beat the Patriots.
Not only would it snap that ugly skid, New York would improve to 2-0 in the AFC East for the first time since 2012.
“It’s huge,” defensive lineman Solomon Thomas said. “Starting the year off 2-0 in the division and starting the year off 2-1 (overall), that’s a big momentum shift. And that’s a big, big, big building block for us.”
NO LOVE LOST
Over eight seasons, Patriots center and captain David Andrews has played in enough games against the Jets in his career — he’s 15-1 in those matchups — to know there isn’t a lot of love between the two division rivals.
“I’ve never really gone out there and competed with a guy for 60 minutes and been like, ‘Wow, he really likes me,’” Andrews said. “Especially up front. You’re trying to stop them from getting to the quarterback and they’re trying to get to your quarterback. … It’s a physical game. A tough game. I’ve never really came away and hoped somebody liked me at the end of the day.”
MISSING RUN GAME
The Patriots have been mostly one-dimensional on offense in their first two games.
They’re averaging just 82 yards per game on the ground — ranking 27th in the NFL — as compared to 335 yards through the air.
While having to play from behind has certainly been a factor, the disparity in play selection is stark. Of 143 total offensive plays, New England’s pass to run distribution is 67% (66 attempts) to 33% (47 attempts).
It’s a discrepancy running back Rhamondre Stevenson acknowledged, but said there’s more they can do with the carries they have been getting so far.
“It’s early in the season and we’ve got to get some things ironed out,” said Stevenson, who leads the team with 27 carries for just 75 yards and a TD. “Not frustrating, but just puts something on your mind the day after the game or something like that of what we need to do to get it back going.”
The Jets enter the game ranked 29th in overall offense and one of the biggest culprits has been their struggles on third down.
New York went 1 for 10 against Dallas in those situations, leading to a massive disparity in time of possession: 42:15 for the Cowboys compared to the Jets’ 17:45.
For the season, the Jets are 6 for 23 on third down, a 26.1% conversion rate that ranks them 31st in the NFL, ahead of only Jacksonville (25%).
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