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Jonathan Jones was a true difference-maker for the Patriots against the Colts

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 26-3 win over Colts

The New England Patriots saw standout performances from several players in their 26-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. But while the likes of Matthew Judon and Josh Uche, for example, played a key role in securing New England’s fifth win of the season, nobody was as directly tied to it as Jonathan Jones.

The seventh-year cornerback, after all, registered a blocked punt and an interception — essentially setting the stage for 17 of the Patriots’ 26 points.

The punt block came in the second quarter, with Jones creeping inside to rush around the edge and catch the Colts by surprise. He got his hand on the football, with teammate Brenden Schooler recovering at the Indianapolis 2-yard line.

Two plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone to go up 13-0. Jones, however, was not done for the day just yet.

Not only did he continue to play starter-level reps as an outside cornerback, he also registered the defense’s lone takeaway of the day. In the fourth period and with New England up 19-3, he put the finishing touches on the victory when he got his hands on a tipped pass from Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

Jones was able to get both hands under the ball to complete the interception before the pass hit the turf, and quickly took off toward the end zone. 16 yards later he was in for the first pick-six of his career.

“Celebrate with the guys. Every time,” Jones said about the aftermath of the play. “It was my first pick-six here, and just celebrate with the guys. Everything we do here, it’s a team effort and we’ve got a close group of guys that come in and work hard every day.”

Jones originally joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2016, and through the years expanded his role: he moved from special teamer, to rotational nickel and dime defensive back, to starting slot corner. Since earlier this year, he has manned a starting role on the outside opposite Jalen Mills.

No matter where he lined up, though, Jones has been productive for the Patriots.

“Jon’s had a lot of good games for us. Jon’s one of our best players,” said head coach Bill Belichick on Sunday. “He started out as an undrafted free agent out of Auburn, came in here and lit up things on the special teams with his speed, his toughness, his intelligence. He’s a smart football player. Worked his way into a big role defensively. We signed him for that role, kind of a third corner. ...

“This year, we had some depth inside and moved him outside, and he plays outside and inside, like a lot of our players do. We play them in different spots. He made a transition to playing on the perimeter this year. Has done a good job for us.”

Against the Colts, Jones was part of a defense that dominated from start to finish. Not only did the unit register nine sacks — tying a post-merger franchise high — it also gave up little when QB Sam Ehlinger was not pressured.

In fact, Indianapolis’ best drive of the day came late in the second quarter when New England played prevent. The only points, meanwhile, were the result of a field goal after a Jakobi Meyers fumble.

In between, Jones and company were locking down the Colts’ receivers and holding Ehlinger to a mere 103 passing yards and that one interception.

“He is one of our smartest football players,” said McCourty about Jones. “You see him playing outside, inside, he could even play free safety and make all those calls and do all those things. He is a fun guy to play with.

“Now, when you look around with so many guys I came in with being gone, I look to J. Jones because we have the most years together in this secondary. I rely on him a lot to be a leader in that corner group, to be able to get guys lined up. For me as an older guy, like I said I have played with him for a while, but I was also here for a while before he got here, it has been really cool to see his growth.”

His growth this season so far has helped the Patriots transition away from the days of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson leading their cornerback group. And on Sunday, it culminated in a truly spectacular performance on defense and in the kicking game.

“I cannot say enough about him,” added McCourty. “Now going outside, which is not easy to do when you are inside and have made a name for yourself playing inside and playing good football, and to then go outside and play at a high level. Then he showed out today blocking a punt, intercepting a pass, scoring. He is one of our best players.”