FOXBORO — Mac Jones sat facing his locker, towel over head in full uniform 20 minutes after the Patriots’ latest distressing loss.
Last week, the Patriots lost after rookie wide receiver couldn’t get a second foot in bounds on fourth down. This week, they lost after officials determined that guard Cole Strange came inches away from the first-down marker after a heads-up lateral from tight end Mike Gesicki on fourth down in the 24-17 loss.
Jones finally picked himself off his chair, checked his phone, showered and came up to the Patriots’ press conference podium with a positive attitude. He wasn’t the only Patriots player who appeared heartbroken by the team falling to 0-2 on the season. So, he was asked how to make sure the team doesn’t spiral from here.
“Yeah, I think about past experience and my rookie year when we didn’t really start off too hot and then went on a really good winning streak,” Jones said.
The Patriots started just 2-4 in 2021 before they did win seven straight and wound up making the postseason.
“So, for me, that’s all I can do is look back on experiences I’ve already had in my life and hopefully the guys on the team can respond,” Jones continued. “Definitely got to play better and learn from it and, you know, be here early and leave late and do it together. I think that’s the biggest thing. If a couple guys are doing it, it’s not good enough, clearly. So we’ve got to put more into it and get more out of it.”
After last week’s loss, Jones was extremely hard on himself. He had thrown a pick-six, mounted a comeback and had multiple chances to win it in the end but came up short.
Sunday night’s game wasn’t an exact facsimile, but the Patriots bounced back several times from a 10-0 deficit, then a 17-3 deficit and then a 24-10 deficit. They got the ball last with 2:14 left in the game from their own 45-yard line after Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders missed a 55-yard field goal.
Jones completed 3- and 13-yard passes to Kendrick Bourne and then was sacked for an 8-yard loss behind an offensive line missing starting left tackle Trent Brown. After an incompletion to tight end Hunter Henry, Jones chipped away at a third-and-18 situation with a 14-yard completion to tight end Mike Gesicki. He threw short of the first-down marker to Gesicki on fourth-and-4 before the tight end lateraled the ball to Strange. Officially ruled the play a first down live but reversed the conversion on review. The game was over.
The college national champion went 31-of-42 for 231 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Just another situation when the Patriots came close but couldn’t close.
“I think in the long run, it’s going to help us at some point during the season or, you know, when we all play together,” Jones said. “So I think, obviously, it sucks. But, really, when you’re close, you just have to do more, I think. Weight room, film, practice. Like, everyone just has to do more. And hopefully if you do that, I mean, you know you did everything you could do, right? So at that point, some of it’s out of your control. Some of it is luck, some of it’s other things. But for us, just got to do more.”
Jones still has just one fourth-quarter comeback and one game-winning drive on his resume. He’s now 2-13 as a starter when the Patriots are underdogs. There isn’t an obvious signature win from his two-plus years as an NFL starter.
Jones wasn’t as obviously hard on himself after this loss. Time at some point will run out on the 2023 Patriots if they can only keep coming “close.”