Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was 2 years old the last time the New England Patriots started a season 0-2.
You have to go back to Sept. 23, 2001, when the Jets defeated the Patriots 10-3 to start Bill Belichick’s second season with the team with two losses. Of course, that was the game in which Jets linebacker Mo Lewis sent Drew Bledsoe to the hospital and New England quarterback Tom Brady came off the bench to start two decades of dominance.
The Jets’ game against the Patriots on Sunday is unlikely to have the same historical significance. However, the matchup between two 0-1 teams, both led by rookie quarterbacks, is intriguing. Wilson and Patriots rookie Mac Jones will meet for the first time in what could be the start of a new era in the rivalry between New York and New England.
“It’s super cool,” said Wilson, sounding every bit of his 22 years old. “You think the New England Patriots your whole life and my whole life, how many Super Bowls they’ve won, and how many I’ve seen them in. Obviously, the team is a little bit different now without Tom there. But Bill Belichick is still there, and that dude is one of the best coaches around. The scheme and the way he gets those guys to play hard and the rules he gives them, it’s tough, he does a good job. So it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Belichick is a seasoned veteran when it comes to rookie quarterbacks. Against them, he has a 21-6 record. Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins beat him last year, so it’s not impossible. Fans of the Jets may recall Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith defeating Belichick as rookies.
Wilson is coming off a strong Week 1 performance against the Panthers. He didn’t light up the scoreboard or the stat sheet, but with six sacks and two second-half touchdown drives, he showed toughness and resiliency.
“He’s an explosive player,” Belichick said of the Jets rookie. “He’s got a great arm. Live arm. Makes all the throws. Athletic. Like any young player, you know, they gain experience and get better every time they go out there.”
This is also coach Robert Saleh’s first meeting with Belichick, and he knows he’ll have to match wits with the best coach in history if the Jets are to win. The Patriots have won 10 straight games against the Jets, a streak Saleh hopes to snap Sunday.
“That’s where that chess match with coach Belichick always happens,” Saleh said, “and you’ve got to pick and choose your battles, and stay sound and committed to what you’re doing and get ready to play chess with one of the best chess players in the world.”