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Jets have shot to give Patriots first 0-2 start since before Tom Brady

The last time the New England Patriots opened a season 0-2, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson was 2 years old.

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You have to go back to Sept. 23, 2001, when it was the Jets who beat the Patriots, 10-3, in Bill Belichick’s second year with the team to start New England off with two losses. Of course, that was the game when Jets linebacker Mo Lewis sent Drew Bledsoe to the hospital, and Tom Brady jogged in off the bench, beginning two decades of New England dominance.

Sunday’s matchup between the Jets and Patriots probably won’t have as much historical significance. But it is an intriguing matchup between two 0-1 teams, both led by rookie quarterbacks. Wilson and Patriots rookie Mac Jones will face off for the first time in what could be the start of a new chapter in the New York-New England rivalry.

Jets coach Robert Saleh, left, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“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 known master against rookie quarterbacks. He has a 21-6 record against them. The Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa beat him last year, so it’s not impossible. Jets fans may remember Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith both beating Belichick as rookies, too.

Wilson is coming off an encouraging outing against the Panthers in Week 1. He did not light up the scoreboard or the stat sheet, but he showed toughness through six sacks and resiliency with two second-half touchdown drives.

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“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 Jets home opener is also coach Robert Saleh’s first meeting with Belichick, and he knows he will have to match wits with the best coach ever to do it to win this one. The Patriots have beaten the Jets 10 straight times, 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.”

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