Mac Jones shows veteran traits even in defeat

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Moral victories do not exist in football, and Bill Belichick would be the first person to tell you that.

Yet teams learn about themselves, even in defeat. Yesterday in a loss to the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots learned a lot about their rookie quarterback.

And they likely enjoyed what they learned.

In the one-point loss to Miami, Mac Jones acclimated himself to life as an NFL starting quarterback. Jones completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. On an afternoon where every possession matters, Jones had to endure a full complement of mistakes from the Patriots’ offense. On New England’s second possession of the game fellow rookie Rhamondre Stevenson coughed up the football, giving the Dolphins good field position in New England territory.

Then with New England driving late in the game — and already in position for a game-winning field goal attempt — Damien Harris put the football on the turf, and the Dolphins were able to recover and run out the clock.

After the game Jones, like a veteran, stood in front of the media and took the blame. “I think we can get better,” Jones said after the loss. “That’s just how we have to look at it. It definitely wasn’t good enough, starting with me. So we’ve got to watch the film. We lost, so it’s not good enough.”

That attitude was apparent even during the game itself. After Jones threw his first NFL touchdown, a quick-strike to Nelson Agholor, the rookie wanted nothing to do with the football, despite it being his first professional scoring play:

Jones was asked about the moment when he addressed the media, and again he pointed to the big picture. “It doesn’t matter. It was one touchdown, we have to score more. It was not like the game was over there. We have to do better in the red zone, score more touchdowns. And we will.”

But watching Jones’ performance, it is hard not to get excited about the future of the New England offense. Jones at times looked more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie making his first start against a talented defense. In this video breakdown, we’ll dive into three throws from Jones, and highlight his ability to manipulate defenders as well as his pocket toughness:

However, Jones’ best throw of the day might have come on this third-down conversion to James White. New England faces a 3rd and 11 in their own territory, trailing by seven with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter. Miami shows pressure, but instead they drop off and play Cover-1 in the secondary. Jones likes the matchup of White working against a linebacker, and drops in a beautiful touch throw on the wheel route to move the chains:

This was the kind of throw that reminded Patriots fans about a former quarterback who played in New England…

Members of the New England media tried to get Belichick to open up about his rookie quarterback on Monday, and as you might expect the notoriously tight-lipped coach was not exactly effusive with praise:

We did some good things in the game. We certainly had our opportunities, but we didn’t do enough in any one area to have the results that we want. There’s a lot of room for improvement for all of us, coaches, players. Whatever positions you want to name, whatever players you want to name — everybody did enough things to give us an opportunity and we had our chances, but in the end, we weren’t able to take advantage of them and capitalize on them. So we all have a lot of work to do in terms of finishing those opportunities and getting the results we want.

I don’t know any other way to put it. It’s the same for everybody. It’s not like one player cost us the game and somebody else won the game for us and all that. That’s just not what happened.

A loss is a loss, and the Patriots are looking up at the Dolphins in the standings after Week 1. The coach believes the team can get better, the quarterback believes he needs to play better, and while the opportunities were in front of them, the offense failed to capitalize.

Yet even with all of that, the rookie showed that he belonged.