EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Three years ago, the New England Patriots made Sam Darnold see ghosts. Zach Wilson? He got boogie-oogied.
Boogie-oogied? Come again?
That’s how Matthew Judon explained what the New England Patriots did to the New York Jets’ overwhelmed quarterback in Sunday’s 22-17 win at MetLife Stadium.
The Patriots did not register a sack or quarterback hit until more than halfway through the fourth quarter, but they were able to consistently fluster and disrupt Wilson, who completed just 48.8% of his passes and tossed three interceptions in his ugliest performance of the season.
“We were able to get to the backfield and kind of ‘boogie-oogie’ him,’ ” Judon said postgame. “… Just to get to him, impose our will as a front and continue to put him under pressure and duress. We were able to do that.”
Judon spearheaded that effort, generating frequent pressure from his outside linebacker position. Though Wilson was able to wriggle out of a few sacks — including one by Judon on third down that would have knocked New York out of field-goal range — he spent much of the game running for his life and committed two back-breaking mistakes in the second half.
His final two interceptions were no-chance heaves directly to Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Judon provided heavy pressure on the first. On the second, it was linebacker Mack Wilson and defensive end Deatrich Wise.
Wilson also had five second-half throwaways as he sprinted away from Patriots pass-rushers. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and linebacker Josh Uche finally got to Wilson in the final minutes, bagging a pair of fourth-quarter sacks.
“We could just tell we were rattling him,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. “He was kind of throwing up balls for grabs. Once he got off his first look, he was kind of scrambling back there.”
Wilson did throw for 355 yards, so this wasn’t a flawless performance by New England’s defense, which . The Jets had eight pass plays that went for 17 or more yards, including a 54-yarder in the first quarter and a 63-yarder in the fourth. Limiting chunk gains like that will be a priority moving forward. But after struggling mightily in last week’s blowout loss to the Chicago Bears, that unit performed the way it should have against a Jets team that was missing its top running back (Breece Hall), its best offensive lineman (Alijah Vera-Tucker) and one of its top receivers (Corey Davis).
Or, in short, the Patriots made Zach Wilson look like Zach Wilson. And they needed to, with their own offense managing just one touchdown in Mac Jones’ first full game since his high ankle sprain.
“We’ve just got to have better lane integrity and just keep building off of this, man,” said Peppers, who saw his defensive playing time increase with Kyle Dugger out with an ankle injury. “Just keep building off of this.”
The Patriots will look to maintain that momentum when they host Sam Ehlinger and the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.