For the second straight week, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones ended the game on the bench watching backup quarterback Bailey Zappe close out a garbage time situation.
This time, Jones left the game in a 31-0 hole late early in the fourth quarter after completing just 12-of-22 passes for 110 yards and two interceptions. With obvious question marks about Jones’ job as the team's starting QB, Bill Belichick explained postgame that he will remain under center moving forward.
“Yeah,” Belichick said. “There were a lot of problems. Certainly wasn't all on him.”
Jones’ first interception of the game came on New England’s second offensive drive of the game. The QB was hit as he was throwing which resulted in a fluttered pass that landed in the arms of Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu.
The defensive back returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints an early 7-0 lead. It marked Jones’ fifth interception of the year (he later threw a sixth off the hands of Ty Montgomery) and his third pick-six of the season.
Dating back to his rookie season in 2021, Jones has now tossed six interceptions that have been returned for touchdowns - tying him for most in the NFL with Matthew Stafford.
“It’s the NFL. They got good defensive lineman that are coming every play that are trying to hit the quarterback,” Jones said. “I got to do a better job. But, as an offense we got to rethink things and really control what we can control - and that's scoring more points.”
Turnovers have been a major issue for Jones this season, as he had several ill-advised throws last week against Dallas and lost a fumble that resulted in six points. The turnovers have gone hand-in-hand with New England starting slowly, as they have now trailed by double digits in the first half of every loss this season.
“Definitely don’t want to start like that,” Jones said post game. “We want to start faster in these games — it’s been a trend here. Want to improve and try to learn from it. Do everything I can to get better.”
Jones was then asked why he feels the team is starting so slow:
“Really just not being ready to go, I guess,” he responded. “As an offense, you want to go out there. You’ve practiced all week and you feel confident. So, definitely want to get improvement on that and not any of these games are starting off very hot. So we definitely have to improve.”
With Jones out of the game, Bailey Zappe received the final four drives of work. Things weren't much better, as Zappe sailed third-down passes to a wide open Hunter Henry a Kendrick Bourne on back-to-back drives.
“It could be a timing thing,” Zappe said post game about his misses. “It’s up to me now to get with those guys and get extra reps. Like finding [Bourne] on the cross, figuring out the way he likes to run it. I could do a better job of getting the ball out there and letting him catch it and run with it after.
“That’s all my fault. I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to make the throw. Maybe that comes to just getting with those guys after practice or before practice.”
Prior to New England’s game against the Saints, NFL Network reported that Zappe saw increased first-team reps in practice this past week. The second-year quarterback would not confirm.
“Last week’s last week,” he said. “Moving on to this week. We’ll see how this week goes.”
When asked if he expects to see another increase of practice reps this week, he said, “we’ll find out on Wednesday.”
With both quarterback’s and the entire offense struggling, the Patriots’ unit has now gone 33 straight drives without a touchdown, dating back to Pharaoh Brown’s 58-yard scamper against the New York Jets in the second quarter of Week 3.
Their next shot to break the streak will come next Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“It’s hard, right?,” Jones said when asked how he remains confident. “But confidence comes from years of experience and practice and things that you've accomplished. But, also just trying to get better and learn from everything.
“Definitely need to be better as an offense and really feel like we need to take on the challenge and do what we can to be better.”