Some initial thoughts following Sunday’s disappointing loss in Germany:
1) One takeaway from Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis in Frankfurt, Germany, is that the New England Patriots certainly don’t appear to have lost any faith in head coach Bill Belichick, at least if what we saw overall is any indication.
Despite being without J’Whaun Bentley, who has been a key part of their defense, New England still managed to hold the Colts to just 10 points on the afternoon, with everyone on that side of the ball flying around and making plays.
There was plenty of energy. There was plenty of effort. What was lacking was the execution, and that was ultimately what cost this team a shot at what would have been their first win in three weeks.
The problems on offense were obviously the key issue, with Mac Jones struggling to finish off drives while clearly looking like a player who has seemingly lost his confidence to this point.
Jones remained hesitant at multiple points on Sunday, which eventually led to a blowup on the sideline by Bill O’Brien, who was clearly pointing something out on the tablet where Jones didn’t make the throw.
That was a point of emphasis by O’Brien earlier in the week. The Patriots offensive coordinator talked about trying to find more consistency, which was his response to whether or not Jones was progressing too quickly through his reads. He explained while it wasn’t “just about one guy,” the goal was to finally start executing things better, which was something he was hoping they’d potentially improve on this weekend.
But it was obvious that there were significant mistakes on Sunday that happened and it brought things to the breaking point.
That moment between Jones and O’Brien made it clear that there were problems in his quarterback’s execution Sunday, and what transpired from there may now change the trajectory of the remainder of Jones’ tenure here in New England.
(PHOTO: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
3) However, what obviously pushed things over the edge was the missed touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki late in the contest for what would have been the go-ahead score for his football team.
On the play, Jones was by himself in the pocket but appeared to sense pressure in front of him that wasn’t there, with the former Alabama quarterback reverting to throwing off his back foot while throwing short in Gesicki’s direction.
The tight end had beaten both of his defenders and was streaking into the end zone, but Jones badly underthrew it for the turnover.
Looking back at the play, Jones had the time and the room to step and make the throw, with more than adequate protection where there shouldn’t have been a need to fall back as he let it go.
That’s been an issue for Jones all season, with footwork being something he’s harped on in recent weeks. Despite that, those issues have persisted, and it’s been a factor in the problems he’s continued to have to this point.
While that pass proved to be the final one of the afternoon for him, the question now is whether it might potentially be the final one for him in New England after Bailey Zappe replaced him on the final drive.
(PHOTO:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)
4) If this truly is the end for Jones, it’s obviously disappointing. Clearly, Belichick isn’t without blame for how things have gone down, with Jones having, at times, been put in positions that certainly have challenged his ability to succeed.
Obviously, we can point to the changes at coordinator, personnel losses, etc, as well as how Belichick created a difficult situation when Jones got hurt early in his sophomore season.
That being said, it doesn’t change the fact Jones still has had moments he could have seized. He’s had opportunities and throws he could have made and chances he hasn’t taken advantage of. Save for the moment he finally created for himself in their win over the Bills earlier this year, he’s consistently come up short. That’s been a theme that has more or less summed up the last couple of seasons for him.
Sunday was probably the most frustrating. While Jones was under a fair amount of duress during the early part of the game, there were still plays to be made, especially in the second half. After getting sacked five times before they finally went into the locker room, the Patriots did a better job of protecting him over the final two quarters.
Instead, Jones still couldn’t get anything going. Much of that was largely thanks to several mental miscues, including the play where Jones had Rhamondre Stevenson open to his left and Demario Douglas right in front of him on a 3rd-and-2 during the early part of the third quarter.
On the play, Jones clearly didn’t see things developing quickly enough and held onto the ball for an extra few beats before the pocket collapsed on him.
As he was falling down, Jones tried to shuffle the ball out to Stevenson with his left hand, and the ball sailed upward, with the Colts nearly coming up with the turnover.
To make matters worse, kicker Chad Ryland came out and missed the 35-yard field goal, adding insult to what was already a frustrating play.
But the turnover on the missed touchdown to Gesicki was just a culmination of a game that had too many missed opportunities, especially given what was at stake.
(PHOTO:Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)
5) Unfortunately for Jones, Sunday was a day where he needed to be better, and the events leading up to that turnover didn’t do him any favors.
Instead, that interception cost him the support of the two most important people who had been in his corner in both O’Brien and Belichick. It also squandered a pretty good effort by the same teammates who managed to go out and hold Indianapolis to just 10 points and set up what would have been a go-ahead drive by the offense.
At the end of the day, it just felt like he ran out of chances.
Jones, who was spotted going to the X-Ray room following the contest later met with reporters to confirm he was O.K. physically, but was visibly upset with how Sunday’s contest finished.
“It was a terrible throw,” said Jones when asked about the turnover. “Practiced it, hit it in practice. Just not a good throw. I mean, I knew where to go, just didn’t do it, didn’t do it right.”
He was asked if it was due to mechanics, Jones admitted there were some issues he was dealing with, but said that, at the end of the day, that part didn’t matter.
“There was some things I was working through but it doesn’t matter,” said Jones. “No excuses.”
Whether or not he’ll get another opportunity certainly feels unlikely. With that in mind, it certainly creates a new situation the Patriots will have to deal with as they head back to New England.
For a team that needed to start coming up with some solutions, it appears they now have a new problem to solve with seven games still remaining on the schedule.
6) As for Bailey Zappe, he walked into a tough situation, with the former Western Kentucky taking the field on that final drive.
Zappe managed to convert the club’s first third down opportunity with an 11-yard pass to Hunter Henry, followed by hitting Demario Douglas for a 9-yard pass on a third-and-10, which they converted after Stevenson picked up the first down on the ensuing 4th down attempt.
Unfortunately, Zappe went for the fake spike on the next snap and seemed to think he had a free play based on his comments after the game. That may have been the reasoning behind the ill-advised throw he made in triple coverage to Douglas on that 1st-and-10 play from their own 40.
That ball ended up in the hands of Colts safety Rodney Thomas, which sealed the win for Indianapolis.
“I can’t say what I want to say, but we were kind of behind on time,” said Zappe as he stood in front of his locker after the game via Mike Reiss. “We talk about one yard for every second, so we were trying to get ahead of the time by taking a shot.”
“We figured the play that we had, the fake spike, would kind of catch the defense off guard, not get the rush going. That worked, but it was kind of me just trying to force it, trying to make a play to kind of get us ahead of the time.”
“Looking back at it, like I said, I’ll probably just going to just say hey, throw it incomplete, live for the next down, try to see if we can take another shot. But I’m sure we’ll look at it tomorrow/Tuesday, and we’ll learn from it.”
Belichick said after the game he would “We’ll worry about next week, next week,” when it came to who will start in two weeks against the Giants, adding, “I thought it was time for a change,” as his reasons why Jones came out of the game.
That may mean it may be Zappe under center in two weeks, adding to what’s already certainly been one of the more bizarre seasons in recent memory here in New England.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary