2. Mac Jones Must Fend off Rookie Jitters This Week
We’re not breaking news here: in order for the Patriots to topple their opponent on the road next week, Mac Jones will need to play mistake-free football. If he wants to be a spectacular caretaker, that’d help, too. At the very least, he has to be better than he was on Sunday, yet another example of decision-making regression at the wrong time.
Outside of a few exceptional strikes, the Patriots rarely looked like the best version of themselves Sunday until midway through the fourth quarter, and two of the most crucial gaffes came from Jones.
The profoundly telegraphed pass to Xavien Howard, taken back for six, put the Patriots in a 14-0 hole midway through the first quarter that neutered their chance to respond to Miami’s exceedingly long first drive. Clearly, New England eventually got their running game in gear, and might’ve been able to chug all the way back without this Jones gift.
Then, of course, came Jones’ fumble. Down 24-10 but driving towards the tail end of the third quarter, Jones coughed the ball up deep in his own territory, leading directly to Jason Sanders’ field goal to make things 27-10.
That field goal was ultimately the difference, last-second scrambling backwards pass touchdown notwithstanding.
Occasionally, Jones looked like the most fully-formed version of himself in this one. “Occasionally” wasn’t good enough, though, and if his two glaring mistakes weren’t forgiven in a meaningless January game in Miami, they won’t be when the postseason starts, either.