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Did a Skycam cable cause Mac Jones’ interception against the Bears?

Related: Unconventional approach leaves Patriots with more questions than ever at quarterback

NFL: OCT 24 Bears at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Update 10/26/2022: Did a Skycam cable cause Mac Jones’ interception against the Bears?

The video of New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones supposedly hitting a Skycam cable on an interception against the Chicago Bears is making the round on social media, and it has now prompted ESPN to make a statement on the matter. The broadcaster claimed that the pass did not grace the cable:

This pass from Mac Jones did not his ESPN’s SkyCam wiring. This video creates a false impression, but in reality the SkyCam wire was more than 15 feet above the ball and our SkyCam system followed all NFL protocol.

Original story 10/26/2022: Did a Skycam cable cause Mac Jones’ interception against the Bears?

Before he was benched in favor of backup Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones played just 18 snaps on Monday night against the Chicago Bears. The 18th and final snap saw him toss an interception to safety Jaquan Brisker, Jones’ sixth pick in roughly 13 quarters of action so far this season.

The interception was as good a play by Brisker as it was a bad decision by Jones, attempting to float the ball to tight end Jonnu Smith off his back foot. However, it appears that another factor might also have contributed: the Skycam.

As was pointed out by Twitter user @BillsFilm on the day after New England’s 33-14 loss, Jones’ pass appears to have changed its trajectory after touching the Skycam cable.

That full-shot video as shown on the ESPN broadcast appears to be somewhat inconclusive, but a follow-up tweet shared by Twitter user @FnBones84 gave a better look at it: in a slowed-down version of the clip it does look as if the ball graced the cable just enough to start tilting down a bit:

Would the outcome of the play have been different had the pass not seemingly touched the cable? That is impossible to say, even though it appears the impact — if it occurred — was only marginal at best.

What we do know, however, is that the Patriots might have had grounds to throw a challenge flag and ask for replaying the down if they felt confident the pass hit the wiring above.

NFL Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 (p), after all, states that “if a loose ball in play strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam, or any other object, the ball will be dead immediately, and the down will be replayed at the previous spot.” Of course, a successful challenge of any kind depends on conclusive video evidence and the broadcast angle available might not have been enough to convince the officials to overturn the interception.

At the end of the day, none of it matters. Jones’ decision to target Smith in this situation — or possibly attempt a throwaway — was a bad one, and the latest in a string of disappointing plays by the sophomore quarterback. He has now thrown six interceptions on the year and has at times struggled to properly read the field.

Jones ended the game against the Bears going 3-for-6 as a passer for 13 yards and said pick; he also gained a combined 24 rushing yards on three scramble attempts. Backup Bailey Zappe replaced him after the pick and led back-to-back touchdown drives, but struggled down the stretch.

While the plan was for Jones to reenter the game at one point in the second half, per head coach Bill Belichick, it never materialized once “the score got out of hand.”