Some quick thoughts following the New England Patriots frustrating 38-3 loss in Dallas on Sunday.
1) As if getting blown out by 35-points wasn’t bad enough, it sounds like the Patriots may potentially be without two of their most important players on defense for the foreseeable future.
Their first blow came early in the game after Gonzalez was knocked out of action after going low on a hit to Cowboys running back Tony Pollard following a play in the first quarter after Dallas had worked its way down to the New England 25-yard line.
Pollard took off to the right and Gonzalez ran him down and went in low, with his shoulder taking the blow as he dropped Pollard and held him to a five yard gain.
The collision left Gonzalez shaken, and it was clear he was in obvious pain after he got up, and there was visible concern on the sideline as he came off the field. The rookie then went into the medical tent and to the locker room shortly after, which ended his day before it really got started.
His loss was brutal because the Cowboys immediately targeted Myles Bryant on the ensuing play, who was lined up wide against CeeDee Lamb. Quarterback Dak Prescott took advantage of the mismatch, with Lamb beating Braynt for the 20-yard touchdown, and Dallas took a 10-3 lead.
Gonzalez’ status is unknown, with the Patriots classifying the rookie’s injury as a “shoulder” and he sat out the remainder of the contest.
2) But Sunday’s loss ended up with the Patriots taking what may be a massive hit, with another key defensive player going down for what may be a significant amount of time.
Linebacker Matthew Judon joined Gonzalez among players hurt on Sunday, with the veteran getting injured while making a tackle on running back Deuce Vaughn early in the fourth quarter.
Reports are saying Judon suffered a biceps injury, which seemingly happened when his arm got hyper extended after it got caught behind him as he attempted to make the tackle.
The bad news is, one of his teammates slipped and gave reason for worry. Teammate Deatrich Wise Jr. spoke to reporters after the game and called Judon’s loss “devastating,” with the veteran adding, “We’ll be with him mentally throughout this year and I know he’ll be with us too. And there will be some guys behind him who will be stepping up and filling in his spot.”
That essentially tells you that he’ll be out for a significant amount of time, given Wise’s comments.
When asked if he anticipates if Judon will miss time, Wise appeared to catch himself.
“Really don’t know,” said Wise. “Just always hate when guys get hurt. That’s all.”
Jones’ turnovers led to Cowboys points on Sunday. (PHOTO: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
3) Obviously, the biggest story from this one was Mac Jones, who had far and away the worst performance of his career on Sunday.
Jones has had his moments when it comes to turnovers, but Sunday seemed to take things to another level.
After starting things off deep in his own end, the Patriots initially took a step back after Mike Onwenu committed his second false start of the quarter, which backed New England up from their own 10 back to their own five yard line.
They followed that up with a 3-yard run by Rhamondre Stevenson, but on the ensuing play, Jones was flushed out to his left and tried to take off but underestimated the speed of Cowboys defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who ran him down from behind and knocked out the football.
Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch scooped up the turnover and took off for the touchdown, and just like that, the Patriots were in an 18-3 hole with just over 11-minutes left in the half.
However, to make matters worse, Jones made two mental mistakes on the next drive. One he got away with, and one that cost him dearly.
Facing a 2nd-and-16 after Onwenu committed his third penalty of the quarter (an offensive holding penalty that cost them 10 yards), Jones managed to roll to his right and then found Kendrick Bourne by himself on the other side of the field, getting away with throwing back across the field to his left for what was a 16-yard gain and a first down.
That’s normally something that shouldn’t happen, but Jones got away with it.
Unfortunately, five plays later, Jones found himself in a similar situation, having rolled to his right with Bourne again sitting on the left side of the field, but with a defender close by.
Jones again fired it to that side, but this time, defensive back Daron Bland stepped in front and picked it off, running it back for the touchdown, which at the time buried New England at 28-3 and put the game well out of reach.
Zappe came in and finished Sunday’s game. (PHOTO: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
He opened the third quarter with an interception on fourth down on a bad throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and followed that up with a couple of near picks on the ensuing drive. That possession caused Bill Belichick to pull the plug, with Bailey Zappe entering the contest with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter and finishing the game.
“I didn’t think there was any point of leaving him in the game,” said Belichick when asked about his reasoning to sit Jones.
He was asked if Jones will start next Sunday against New Orleans and Belichick avoided an answer, which shouldn’t necessarily signal anything since he hasn’t backed Jones since the 2022 minicamps.
4) Still, Jones likely catapulted himself into a bad spot on Sunday. His performance in Dallas was brutal, with the third-year quarterback struggling to do much right.
He actually got off to a good start on their opening drive, completing passes of 14 yards to Hunter Henry and 42 yards to Demario Douglas, which helped get them down to the Dallas 6 yard line.
He also made a great throw to Mike Gesicki to the back of the end zone which would have capped off that drive with a touchdown. On the play, Jones lofted up a great throw that Gesicki couldn’t quite get to after he was briefly held by Cowboys safety Malik Hooker on what turned out to be a non-call, with the ball sailing just beyond his reach and falling incomplete.
That led to a 29 yard field goal, which at the time answered a Cowboys opening drive field goal and knotted things up at 3-3 with 6:41 left to go in the quarter.
That was the closest things would be for the rest of the afternoon.
From there, Jones fell apart. After a first quarter where he completed 4/5 (80%) for 75 yards, Jones completed just 5-of-11 (45.5%) with an interception in the second quarter, and followed that up 3-of-5 (60%) for 28 yards and an interception in the third, which included two additional near turnovers.
Overall, he ended up with a 12-of-21 (57.1%) for 150 yards and two interceptions. That nearly mirrored the 15-of-29 (51.7%) for 201 yards and a touchdown he finished last week, with the exception being last week was a downpour, while Sunday had perfect conditions indoors.
Against the Jets, his struggles meant little due to the fact Zach Wilson wasn’t a threat and they didn’t give away the football. Instead, The turnovers were the killer on Sunday, and the outcome was the worst of Belichick’s tenure as head coach.
As a result, Jones’ leash likely just became significantly shorter and while his job may not yet be lost, it’s probably safe to say with a performance like this, along with the fact they’re sitting at 1-3, he’s certainly teetering.
“For me, just not good enough. It wasn’t my day,” said Jones. “Can’t turn the ball over like that and try and beat good teams.” So definitely a lot to learn from. Definitely disappointed in myself. I feel like I can play a lot better and I have to to beat good teams.”
5) Whether or not Jones will be the starter for next week likely isn’t a question. But whether or not that lasts beyond next Sunday is probably the thing he should be concerned about.
Sitting at 1-3, a convincing win against the Saints would get them back to 2-3, while a loss would drop them to 1-4 ahead of a trip to Las Vegas to take on Josh McDaniels and the Raiders.
If Belichick was going to make a change, it would make sense to do it ahead of that game given that the next two after that are two key matchups against both Buffalo and Miami.
While Bailey Zappe made a couple of nice throws, he wasn’t significantly better than Jones, save for the fact he didn’t turn it over. He finished just 4-of-9 (44.4%) for 57 yards.
Still, it may just come down to the fact that a change may be necessary, especially if there isn’t significant improvement shown next weekend.
Jones was then asked about his starting status moving forward, and whether or not he was concerned. Jones said he plans on focusing on what he can control, which should be playing better.”
“Wasn’t my day today,” he reiterated. “Hopefully, there’s better days ahead.”
He’ll need to hope so.
For a team that is now facing a critical game Sunday against the Saints, it’s probably safe to say the pressure is on. Jones has gotten the benefit of the doubt all season and had shown signs of improvement coming off of last year.
The only problem is, it’s also seen him struggle to get the team into the win column. He’s also had some turnovers that have contributed to those losses, including the disaster we saw on Sunday.
As a result, he’s gone from being the potential future of the team as someone who is now back under the microscope.
If next Sunday isn’t his day, it’s very possible that Belichick may make a change and should that happen, it may be a while before he potentially gets another.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary