This week will likely be full of a variety of arguments coming off of Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but at the end of the day, there’s one fact that remains and only one person will be able to fix it.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones needs to come up big with the game on the line.
Until that happens, he’ll be a player who will be viewed as someone who make things exciting but just can’t finish the job.
Sunday’s outcome against the Eagles ended with plenty of positives after a rocky start. After the Eagles marched 61 yards on 14 plays to start the contest, the revamped Patriots offense took the field and it didn’t take long for disaster to strike.
Following two first downs after New England passed midfield, Jones faced a 3rd-and-5 from the Eagles’ 42 yard line. On the play, Jones threw the pass a little high to Kendrick Bourne in the rain, which saw the football go off Bourne’s fingertips and into the hands of Darius Slay, who took the ball back 70 yards the other way for the touchdown.
Jones immediately followed that up on the next possession with a pass to Ezekiel Elliott, with Jones throwing it slightly behind him, yet Elliott was able to pull it in but lost it just after he set his hands and advanced it.
Philadelphia recovered, and the Eagles turned that into points after Jalen Hurts hit DeVonta Smith for a 5-yard touchdown, with the missed extra point leaving things at 16-0.
Just like that, the Patriots were in a hole, and Jones and the offense spent the remainder of the contest trying to get back into the game.
When the rain finally subsided, plays started to be put together. Jones managed to engineer several drives where he made some big throws, including touchdown passes to both Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne that were absolutely fantastic.
At one point after starting out 5-of-11 for 24 yards and his interception, Jones closed out the first half connecting on 12-of-13 for 118-yards with two touchdowns.
Impressive stats, but what Jones did for three quarters isn’t going to be what’s talked about. What Jones did over the final quarter of play, more so over the final two possessions, will be where the criticism lies.
The third-year quarterback was just 12-of-21 (57.1%) for 139 yards and a touchdown during the fourth quarter, but was just 3-of-8 over the club’s final two possessions for 28-yards.
Two years ago, during his rookie season that would have been good enough. A valiant effort but coming up short used to be a moral victory. Honestly, even last year, playing well against a tough team would have been something to build on.
But in his third season, it’s not enough. Jones was pushed last year and he’s in need of taking the next step. He needs to do what the player who made all the noise for 20 years and during halftime on Sunday did.
He needs to close out the game and put a “W” in the win column.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. He failed to convert his final two third and fourth downs on each of those two possessions and just couldn’t finish what he started.
There will be talk about Kayshon Boutte not dragging his feet and Bill Belichick not kicking a field goal, but Jones had the ball in his hands twice (one of which came after the defense forced a miracle turnover) with the game on the line and didn’t get it done.
That’s not going to be good enough.
He finished Sunday with his 5th career 300-yard game, which should have been a positive. But instead, he’ll be criticized for being tentative on several throws down the stretch while taking a couple of sacks that made a comeback bid even tougher to pull off.
Jones put up solid numbers, but couldn’t finish the comeback again on Sunday. (PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
As a first or second-year player, games like these end up being something to build on. For Jones, it’s now a measuring stick in a season where the Patriots are a team in need of trying to make a playoff push, with the former Alabama standout also essentially playing for his future as a starter with this franchise.
In the end, while he made the game fun at points and gave people a reason to believe it wasn’t over, until he delivers the dagger, he’ll instead be a guy who is “good” but just isn’t good enough.
He’s both an extremely smart and talented player, and both traits are what have brought him this far. But against some incredibly tough competition this season, it won’t be enough to win over fans or the coaches.
In the NFL, wins are all that matters. And the Patriots ultimately need a guy who can deliver a knockout blow in a key moment.
The most frustrating part is the fact they should have beaten the defending NFC Champions on Sunday. Throw out the miscues and the Patriots more than played well enough to pull off the upset. With those same miscues, against all odds, Jones still had two opportunities to bring the crowd to its feet and could have finally had his moment after his predecessor reminded everyone of what used to be before he got here.
But he didn’t. The toe that wasn’t dragged and the field goal that wasn’t attempted isn’t going to change that.
Unfortunately for Jones, it’s going to be something that will be talked about all week until the next time he takes the field next Sunday. And it will also be a key part of how he’s viewed until he finally has his moment and changes the perception.
Because all he’s done so far is keep coming up short.
Brady and the rest of the guys who play in January have all had their moments and many of them have the playoff wins and championships to show for it.
Jones, so far, has two seasons of disappointment and he’s started off his third in similar fashion.
It’s a long season and a lot can happen over 17 games. But Sunday’s loss should be a reminder that moral victories are no longer in play.
Jones needs to start finishing what he started. He needs to finally complete that comeback and make that one throw when the ball is in his hands to ensure a game becomes a win instead of a loss.
At this stage, that’s just how things are. And with a tough road ahead, what he does from here will decide his future, whether it’s here or somewhere else.
There’s a lot of both good and really good in the NFL these days. Sunday gave Jones a chance to be great and he missed it.
Unfortunately, great players are the ones who help push their team across the finish line in games like this. Until Jones proves he can be that guy, he shouldn’t be surprised if things begin to get even more difficult for him should Sunday’s loss end up being the first of similar disappointing outcomes in 2023.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Mac Jones