I was texting with a few buddies during the Patriots game and despite the backbreaking Damien Harris fumble and absolutely brutal way to lose a game, the most common exchange was “Cam Newton is never completing that pass.” And that’s not meant to dump on Cam Newton, who was by all reports a great teammate and team ambassador despite his middling performance on the field. But man what a difference it makes having a young, competent, and promising QB like Mac Jones on the field operating the offense like a vet.
Mac Jones wasn’t lighting it up and throwing for 400+ yards like Dak Prescott or throwing 5 touchdowns like Jameis Winston, but man he looked good. He looked smooth, he was never rattled (aside from that near fumble/lateral play) and he generally moved the offense down the field with precision. His passes were accurate and he frequently put the ball in places where only his receiver could get it.
These are the types of plays that get you really excited about Mac Jones. Has the protection set perfectly against this slot blitz (OL slide right + White picking up blitzer), looks off safety to his right with eyes/pump fake, darts it to Agholor to split two-high. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/gbOltXL1tr— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) September 13, 2021
And my god that wheel route play where Mac dropped it in a bucket!
Mac Jones best throw of the day?— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) September 13, 2021
Big 3rd & 11 trailing by 7 in their own territory and he drops it right in the bucket in tight coverage to James White on a wheel route.
I think we’ve seen this before… 👀 pic.twitter.com/asEDJRVO1A
So while it was a heartbreaking way to lose and one that could seriously come back to bite the Patriots in the ass with it being a divisional game, I still came away from this feeling pretty good about where the Patriots are headed for the first time in a long time. Although I imagine Bill Belichick will be taking more of a Winston Wolf approach when it comes to doling out compliments in team meetings this week…
But if you’re a Patriots fan you have to be encouraged by what you saw on Sunday. For the first time in 2 years the Patriots were able to run an NFL offense. Granted, their $80 million tight ends weren’t exactly balling out, but the Pats are already nearly halfway to their total receptions by tight ends all of last season (18 catches) after ONE game (8 catches) this season. Mac did not play favorites, moved the ball around and hit 8 different receivers to keep the chains moving. The Pats definitely eased Mac Jones into the game with plenty of runs in the first half, but by the 4th quarter he looked completely comfortable and best of all he was MONEY against pressure.
Mac Jones was 14-of-18 for 124 yards against the blitz (sacked once) and 7-of-10 for 71 yards and a TD against pressure. #Patriots— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) September 13, 2021
We don’t want to crown the kid as the savior after one game because there will be struggles as there are with any rookie, but the fact that the Patriots threw the ball 40 times Sunday just a few months removed from Mac’s last game at Alabama shows you just confident they are in the kid.
And while I think I speak for us all when I say we were a little concerned with his swag level after that awkward walk on draft night:
But in his first career start what song does he come out to? Mike Jones! (Who?) Not exactly Tom Brady and Hova, but going with a Houston rapper who was popping when Mac Jones was all of 7 years old is grade A, top level SWAG.
So while it’s unfortunate to be 0-1 and not take advantage of the Bills and Jets losing, after watching the way Mac Jones played in his first career game it’s hard not to have a feeling that eluded Patriots fans all of last year: hope.