After leading a promising field goal drive to start the game and then getting stuffed on a 4th-and-1 sneak attempt, the third-year quarterback fell apart. Seemingly trying to do too much, he had turned the ball over three times by the time he was benched.
Jones lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, threw a pick-six, and later had another interception. It was arguably the worst game of his career.
Nonetheless, Patriots offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien still expressed faith in the 25-year-old and his ability to rebound.
“Mac’s a battler. He is a competitor,” said O’Brien on Tuesday. “When you play quarterback in this league, you have to limit the mistakes and you have to limit the bad games that you have, obviously. We’re all in it together. We have to do a better job of coaching up some things with him a little bit better. He’s got to do a better job of making good decisions for us. He knows that. He takes a lot of ownership — you guys saw that, I think, after the game.
“He blames himself. The game wasn’t lost because of one guy. The game was lost, on our part, because of how poorly we played and coached in the game. Mac is here today, he’s working very hard to get back on the right track. We have a lot of belief in Mac.”
Even though the Patriots started the season at 1-2, Jones showed some promise in his first three games under O’Brien. He was quite possibly the team’s best player on offense and helped keep an offense afloat that was hampered by, among other issues, subpar play along the offensive line.
It was far from perfect, but it looked like a step in the right direction after a disappointing sophomore campaign. The game against Dallas, however, was a major step back for Jones.
Decision making, anticipation, vision, you name it — he looked more like a rookie than he did for much of his rookie season. Accordingly, O’Brien branded the game as an outlier that would not be representative of who Jones is as a player.
“I thought that last game, for Mac, some of the decisions that he made were very uncharacteristic of Mac,” he said. “I think he’ll get back to doing it the way he knows how to do it. He’s just trying to make a play, he’s wanting to win, he’s very competitive. Maybe the plays weren’t great. So, I have to be involved in that, big-time, with him — I understand that. I think you’ll see a lot of improvement in Mac as we keep moving forward here.”
For O’Brien, one key point is the young QB understanding the fine line between necessary and unnecessary risk-taking — something Jones himself mentioned earlier this week.
“You always have to play mentally within yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that you can’t take calculated risks, it doesn’t mean that when something opens up — and you’re not necessarily a runner — that you can’t take off and run.
“It just means that you have to do a really good job of making sure that you understand what we’re trying to do on every play and then executing that play to the best of your ability at a high level, and take what the defense gives you. And, really, I would say for the most part Mac does that. I think that’s where we have to work together. We’re going to work really hard this week to improve some things.”