Coming off of Sunday’s embarrassing 34-0 loss against the Saints, there was very little positive to take away when the dust finally settled.
It was a game where almost nothing went right, and so much went wrong it was staggering. In fact, it was ugly enough to even leave Bill Belichick looking a little shell-shocked as he stood at the podium after the contest.
Five games into the season, Belichick told reporters after what he’d just witnessed, the plan was to “start all over” as they try to reset after an ugly two weeks where they’d been outscored 72-3.
It’s not often you see a coach tear everything up and start over this far into the season, but that’s exactly what happened when everyone cleared out of Gillette Stadium Sunday night.
By all accounts, the coaches gave the players Monday off while they sat down and laid out a plan that will hopefully yield different results moving forward. Given the comments by both Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, the focus has been on fundamentals and improvement, which has been the biggest thing we’ve heard repeated this week as they get set to head out to Las Vegas.
Despite how he’s played, there’s also been some support from both coaches in favor of Mac Jones, who has had a rough couple of weeks. His coaches have reiterated that the last two games have gone beyond the issues of one player, but it doesn’t change the fact there will be some scrutiny he’ll be under depending on how things go from here.
To this point, the offense has clearly been a mess. One point of emphasis we’ve heard is all week is eliminating turnovers, which have clearly been a problem and Jones’ play has factored into that.
Their lone win, against the New York Jets back in Week 3, was the “cleanest” game they played all year. They escaped without any turnovers but saw a performance where Jones completed a paltry 15-of-29 (51.7%) for 201 yards, along with a touchdown during their second rain-soaked game of the season.
However, moving indoors in Dallas certainly didn’t do them any favors. Jones put together a disastrous showing, turning the ball over three times, with two of them resulting directly in touchdowns. The result was a 38-3 blowout loss that saw Jones pulled for the first time in favor of Bailey Zappe after the game was well out of reach.
But instead of being an anomaly, the Patriots followed it up with a 34-0 shutout loss at home that was the worst for New England’s franchise since 1969. Jones was again yanked late in favor of Zappe, with neither player having any luck over these last two weeks.
That game ended up being a massive wake-up call as the alarm bells sounded, and at 1-4, Belichick clearly realized that things, as they stood, were broken and needed to be fixed.
For Jones, a lot of that will end up on his shoulders. During his press conference on Wednesday, the theme of this week seemed to focus on “communication” and playing “free,” which Jones said is something he needs to get better at, as well as trying to balance letting it fly while also being mindful of not turning it over and eliminating mistakes.
Jones also believes trying to just have fun playing football is something he and his teammates need get back to focusing on. He’s hoping that they can all come together and spend more time simply feeding off each other while forgetting about everything else.
Jones feels if they can do that, it will help them start turning things around after back-to-back losses.
“There’s a lot of things I can do really well, and one of those things is my ability to communicate and be myself,” said Jones. “I haven’t done that here at times, and I just need to be consistent with that and be Mac. A lot of the guys I have a great relationship with, and they’re some of my closest friends, not only on the field, but off the field, so let’s carry that into the games. I feel like we do it in practice. Obviously, you guys saw that in training camp, we were out there having fun, and then the game comes around, and I don’t know what it is.”
Turnovers remain the focus for Jones. (PHOTO: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)
Based on comments from both Belichick and offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, improvement seems to really be the thing they’re looking for most from this one. After two weeks where there wasn’t much positive put on film, any sign of something productive to build on is likely going to be what they’re hoping to see, depending on how Sunday ultimately unfolds.
For Jones, that means being better with ball security and avoiding the turnovers that have plagued him in previous weeks. O’Brien said on Tuesday that needs to improve, and it needs to start this weekend.
“You have to take care of the ball. One of the main reasons why we’ve played from behind is we’ve turned the ball over. Not only have we turned the ball over, but we’ve turned it over for touchdowns,” said O’Brien. “That’s number one, we have to stop doing that. We have to do a good job of making sure that we take care of the little things, take care of the football and string plays together. We have to do that in practice.”
“We have to be a lot more consistent at what we’re doing. There’s no consistency right now, and that starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that they know what consistency means and what it looks like, and then we all have to strive to do that. But number one is, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Granted, not all turnovers are created equally. When it came to the turnovers they had Sunday against New Orleans, there was definitely a little bad luck that came into play.
Jones had two turnovers he was credited with during the contest, including another pick-six, but that one came when the pocket completely collapsed on him, and he got drilled as he was releasing the football.
You could argue that he should have taken the sack, but the offensive line collapsed so quickly as he stepped up and tried to throw that it’s hard to say how easy that might have been.
His other miscue came on a terrific throw to Ty Montgomery after Jones dropped it in over three defenders, but Montgomery lost it when he was hit as he was tucking it in, and the ball was instead knocked back into the air and into the hands of linebacker Pete Werner, who came up with the turnover.
Will this be Jones’ final start? (PHOTO: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
While getting picked twice certainly isn’t great, the one positive is that neither of those two turnovers were as egregious as the two interceptions he threw in Dallas.
However, while you could argue the fact neither of those two were 100% on him, the one turnover Jones wasn’t credited with was probably the most glaring.
That one came early in the third quarter where they lined up for a fake quarterback sneak on 3rd-and-1 and Jones whipped the toss behind Stevenson without looking, which glanced off the running back’s hands and ended up being recovered by the Saints.
That moment was a bad look, because it was clearly a poor play by Jones. To top it all off, Jones stood there waving his arms at Stevenson, insinuating it was his fault. Stevenson was spotted twice by cameras after the two went to the sidelines, peering down the bench in Jones’ direction and not looking happy about it.
For a player who needs to keep the locker room on his side, moments like that won’t help his survival under center. Not to mention that all the miscues have led to a level of frustration that now has Jones under significant pressure.
The players are likely aware things shouldn’t be this bad. After all, they’ve already won a game when Jones wasn’t at his best. The other games where they – and Jones in particular – gave the ball away, that was ultimately the story in the loss. And it’s even more disappointing given the wasted defensive efforts as things ultimately slipped away.
That has to change, and it has to start this week.
Improvement and progress will be what everyone is watching for this week. If Sunday looks like it did against both Philadelphia and Miami, even if they falter, most people can probably live with that.
If it looks more like Dallas and New Orleans, then it could be a drastically different story.
Jones talked about changing the narrative, but Sunday will ultimately decide his own moving forward. Let’s hope, for his sake, he can take advantage of what could be his final chance to alter it, or if he’ll instead see the team have to go back to the drawing board with another quarterback next weekend.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary