After the Buffalo Bills took their first lead of the day, the New England Patriots’ much-maligned offense took the field with 1:58 left in the fourth quarter and a chance to drive for the victory. That position itself was not an unfamiliar one for Mac Jones and company, but one they have not had a lot of success over the last few seasons.
In fact, throughout his three years as the Patriots’ starting quarterback Jones has orchestrated just one game-winning drive — in Week 5 of his rookie season against the Houston Texans. Since then, he has failed to recapture that late-game magic.
The game against the Bills saw him and his unit flip the script. The Patriots marched 75 yards in eight plays, and when Jones hit Mike Gesicki for the eventual game-winning touchdown they left only 12 seconds on the clock.
Naturally, that drive and the 29-25 victory as a whole, was a major step in the right direction — a confidence-builder for a quarterback and unit in much need of it.
“Backs against the wall and you hear all the talk about us with a chance to win the game and we can’t close, and all that kind of stuff,” said Gesicki. “Today we had a chance and he stood in there, delivered play after play after play. Ultimately, we won the game off of several great plays, and off of a great ball by him. So, really happy for him and just excited for this to ultimately propel us forward.”
In one of the best performances of his career, Jones ended the game with 25 completions on 30 pass attempts for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The former first-round draft pick was particularly sharp late in the game.
On the game-winning drive, Jones went 6-of-7 for 64 yards and the game-winning score to Gesicki.
After the game, the 25-year-old stressed the need for this performance being a building block among many.
“It’s just a crumb, and you got to build off of that and attack every day the same,” Jones said. “It’s all about playing for each other, playing for the guy next to you and understanding why. We did that today and we need to continue doing that every day in practice and in the games. ...
“It’s just a crumb. Just keep picking up those crumbs and eventually you have a whole loaf of bread. That’s my goal.”
While Jones spoke about his confidence being high either way and his focus on the process more than anything else, running back Rhamondre Stevenson acknowledged that the successful late rally was a chance to build some momentum.
“Mac’s our leader,” he said. “He did a great job keeping everybody poised and ready to go get some points on that drive, and to win the game like we did. I feel like everybody was just poised for a great drive and to get some points on the board. ...
“It’s the same thing [for Jones] it means for all of us: just getting back on track, gaining some more confidence, beating a good Bills team at home. It just builds confidence and we just have to keep it rolling.”
The Patriots executing their game-winning drive over the Bills did not happen by accident. With the team not enjoying plenty of success in such a setting earlier in the year — losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins came down to the wire — it kept working on refining its craft in those situations in particular.
Center David Andrews pointed out that the two-minute offense would be a point of emphasis on a near-daily basis. Against Buffalo, the team was able to reap the rewards of that work.
“We really came together as a team, you could see us playing as a team,” the team captain said. “Overcoming adversity on both sides of the ball, and that makes me proud because that’s something that you can build off of. ... You need that adversity, seeing that overcome, building confidence, things like that. And it was a great drive at the end.”