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The New England Patriots may not clinch a playoff berth this season, but they sure look live they’ve found their franchise quarterback.
Just six games into his rookie season, Mac Jones has shown Patriots fans a little bit of everything.
Whether it’s a penchant for check-down passing, an affinity for turnovers, leading comeback wins or going toe-to-toe with two of the best quarterbacks in the game in Tom Brady and Dak Prescott, Jones has shown it all just one-third through his rookie campaign.
But if there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s this — this kid has moxie.
The Patriots suffered another close loss in Week 6, this time against the Dallas Cowboys. Despite Jones’ 75-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne with 2:11 remaining in regulation to put the Patriots up 29-26, New England ended up falling in overtime by a score of 35-29.
And although Jones wasn’t perfect by any means — he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the drive prior with the Patriots leading 21-20 — he showed the poise and resilience that Bill Belichick envision when he selected him with a first-round draft pick back in April.
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Once again against one of the NFC’s top contenders, Jones nearly led an overmatched Patriots squad to victory. Just two weeks after out-dueling Tom Brady on national television, Jones nearly got the best of Prescott.
The 23-year-old had one of his best games to date, completing 15-of-21 passes for 229 yards on 71.4 percent passing for two touchdowns on 10.9 yards per attempt and a 119.0 quarterback rating. The latter two statistical categories are his best marks to date.
In fact, if it wasn’t for a missed facemask penalty call on Cowboys defensive back Anthony Brown on Patriots receiver Nelson Agholor, Jones could have very well led the Patriots to a game-winning drive to open overtime.
Perhaps most important of all, Jones was able to bounce back after his interception just one play later to lead what looked to be the game-winning touchdown drive.
In fact, if Nick Folk doesn’t miss the game-winning kick off of the uprights against the Buccaneers and if the referees don’t miss an obvious penalty versus the Cowboys, we could be talking about Jones leading the Patriots to the playoffs in his first year.
How did such a young and inexperienced quarterback rebound so quickly from a back-breaking interception?
“You just gotta play the next play,” Jones said in the postgame press conference. “You’re only as good as your last play. At the same time, you just have to move on.”
“We can’t just hang our heads,” Jones continued. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. You can get humbled every week.”
Clearly, the Patriots’ offense is not perfect. There are flaws on the offensive side of the ball and that showed during this game.
For example, the Patriots were dominated in time of possession by a superior Cowboys offensive unit, 39 minutes to 27 minutes for New England.
Up until their touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ offense didn’t muster a single drive for more than five plays.
It’s clear this is still a work in progress; as is Jones’ development as a young quarterback.
But it’s hard not to get excited when you see the traits of brilliance.
Outside of his three-interception performance against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3 and his late interception against the Cowboys on Sunday, Jones has done a solid job of taking care of the football.
Furthermore, he’s so much further along compared to his contemporaries from the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s not even funny.
Trey Lance and Justin Fields emerged out of training camp as backups to their veteran quarterback teammates. Meanwhile, Zach Wilson came out slinging to lead the NFL in interceptions (nine) just five games into the season.
Jones’ command of the offense often resembles that of a veteran quarterback. While the veteran-led Cowboys racked up 12 flags for a total of 115 yards, the Patriots committed just five penalties for 47 yards. Just two of those plays occurred on the offensive side of the ball.
And you can’t dismiss his 13-point comeback win over the Houston Texans after he threw an interception in the third quarter. That’s not even mentioning how four of his starting offensive linemen were sidelined.
Even Belichick was impressed by Jones’ resiliency during the postgame press conference in Week 5.
“Mac gave it to us all day,” Belichick said. “I thought we moved the ball. I thought he made a lot of good decisions. There were some checks that he had to make that he made throughout the day, but really the last drive was a third down conversion to Hunter [Henry] and then we had a couple good runs in there.”
But yeah, Mac’s been good for us all year in terms of his leadership, his resilience, and kind of always counting on him to do the right thing, and you know, he really does it at a high level, so it’s been impressive,” Belichick continued.
Jones’ ability to execute Belichick’s game plan while keeping games within distance against far superior competition is what sticks out the most.
It almost reminds you of a young Tom Brady.
Obviously, Jones has a long way to go to even be mentioned in the same breath as the greatest quarterback of all time.
For one, finishing off these close games with victories will be a step in the right direction.
But considering what this franchise has been through since Brady’s departure, Patriots fans have a reason to finally feel good about their team.
And it’s all because of their young quarterback.