I still have no words for what happened at the end of that Patriots game on Sunday afternoon. By now, you’ve seen countless replays and have heard all of the commentary surrounding the dumbest play we may ever witness on a football field. To make matters worse, the loss all but ended any chance the Patriots had of making the playoffs for a second-straight season. They’ll have to string together three consecutive victories over the Bengals, Dolphins, and Bills to stand a chance. Good luck with that.
However, the game on Sunday never should have come to the point where Jakobi Meyers is firing the ball toward his endzone to the waiting hands of the unathletic Mac Jones. No, this game should’ve ended when the Raiders had fourth and ten on their final drive. Instead, the Patriots had their corners giving up a 12-yard cushion, allowing Las Vegas to move the chains. Unfortunately, the Raiders converted in front of rookie cornerback Marcus Jones. A few plays later, Jones found himself covering Keelan Cole in the endzone, and we know what happened there. It was a rough afternoon for Jones after a few very good games. Here’s how he and the rest of the rookies performed in Sunday’s loss.
Cole Strange, B+
After a decent start to the season, Strange seemed to have hit the rookie wall over the past month as his play has gone downhill. However, he showed flashes of his first-round potential on Sunday. Strange helped the Patriots’ running game run for a season-high 206 yards and kept quarterback Mac Jones from being sacked. He also showed flashes of his nastiness:
The only big blemish on Strange’s day was a false start penalty late in the second quarter with the Patriots backed up. This preceded a blocked punt and eventual Raiders touchdown to end the half.
Pierre Strong, B+
Coming into Sunday, it was unsure how much Rhamondre Stevenson would play, if at all. All he did was rush for a career-high 172 yards on only 19 carries. For his part, Strong picked up where he left off in week 14 by providing a nice secondary option, carrying the ball four times for 25 yards, with two of those four carries picked up first downs. Strong also added three receptions for 12 yards in the short passing game Mac Jones loves so much. If this continues, we may wonder if Strong’s hot finish to the year marks the end of Damien Harris’ time in New England.
DaMarcus Mitchell, B
Mitchell continues to only play on special teams but continues to make play each week. Mitchell has three tackles over the past two weeks in kick coverage.
Kevin Harris, B-
Harris is definitely the third back for the moment behind Stevenson and Strong but made the most of his opportunity on Sunday, carrying the ball five times for 19 yards. However, he was not a factor in the passing game, and it will be interesting to see what playing time he gets moving forward.
Brenden Schooler, C+
It was Schooler’s first time since week five without a special teams tackle, but he still leads the team in that category. Schooler and the coverage units did a good job on Sunday, as the Raiders only averaged 6.7 yards per punt return and 21 yards per kick return.
Tyquan Thornton, C+
Without DeVante Parker and a not 100% Jakobi Meyers, Thornton actually led Patriots receivers with 60 offensive snaps on Sunday. However, despite being targeted four times, he only came down with one reception for 21 yards. That reception did pick up a first down on third and long, but Thornton continues to go weeks without looking like the big-play threat he’s supposed to be.
Marcus Jones, C-
Jones’ afternoon started .well as he used his superior speed to close the gap on Davante Adams and break up this potential touchdown.
However, it was downhill from there in the passing game for Jones. With Jalen Mills and fellow rookie Jack Jones inactive, Marcus Jones again found himself playing a significant role on defense. On the Raiders’ final drive, Jones gave up three receptions, including one of fourth and ten and the other for the game-tying touchdown. In all, Jones gave up five receptions on six targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. He added five tackles and also returned three punts for 25 yards.
Incomplete: Bailey Zappe
Inactive: Jack Jones, Sam Roberts