FOXBORO — In each of the first six questions Mac Jones answered in his news conference Sunday night after the Patriots’ Week 1 25-20 loss to the Eagles, the quarterback went out of his way to blame himself for the result.
Jones said he “didn’t throw any good passes on the first drive” and that the Patriots “couldn’t score early, and we just fell behind because of me, and I put it on myself.” He noted that the Patriots’ defense “gave me the ball twice to win the game, and I couldn’t do it.”
The Patriots got down to the Eagles’ 17-yard line while trailing 22-14 with 9:32 left in the game, went for it on fourth-and-3 and couldn’t convert. The Eagles responded with a field goal, putting the Patriots down 25-14. Jones led the Patriots on a scoring drive but couldn’t make a two-point conversion, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 25-20. Jones’ defense gave him two more opportunities to score late in the fourth quarter, but the offense turned the ball over on downs twice.
“That hurts; right? You get a chance to win the game twice and can’t do it,” Jones said. “You just got to learn from it. You only get so many opportunities in the NFL to do that, and I felt like I definitely let the team down.”
Jones said he felt like he let the offensive line down. He said he let the defense down. He said he had more bad plays than good plays.
He was extremely hard on himself in a game in which he completed 35-of-54 passes for 316 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“I felt like in the most critical times, I played my worst,” he said.
The third-year pro had a bad start to the game when he threw a pass high and wide to receiver Kendrick Bourne, who had to leap up and adjust for the ball. It clanged off his fingertips and into cornerback Darius Slay’s arms for a 70-yard pick-six. The Patriots’ next series ended when running back Ezekiel Elliott lost a fumble to the Eagles. Their next three series’ were three-and-outs.
Then Jones did get hot. The Patriots’ last two drives of the first half resulted in touchdowns. He led the team on another scoring drive late in the fourth quarter but did make costly errors on the team’s next two offensive series’.
After Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers forced Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to fumble and cornerback Marcus Jones recovered the ball, Mac Jones was sacked, threw an incomplete pass to Kendrick Bourne and took a delay of game penalty. On fourth-and-17, Jones’ pass was short of the first-down marker and dropped by tight end Hunter Henry.
The Patriots’ defense forced a turnover on downs. After driving from Philadelphia’s 47-yard line down to the 19-yard line, Jones took another sack. Rookie wide receiver Kayshon Boutte couldn’t get both feet in bounds on Jones’ final passing attempt of the game.
“I felt like there was definitely a couple of times when I probably didn’t throw it to the right guy,” Jones said. “Just have to watch the film, sometimes when you are out there, it’s going fast. Just trying to stay neutral and don’t go up and down, which I tried not to do tonight. Yeah, just have to watch it from a schematic standpoint. I do think I have the ability to make all the throws. It’s not that. It’s just doing it at the right time.”
Jones’ teammates had his back, however. Running back Ezekiel Elliott said he though Jones “balled out.”
Henry and tight end Mike Gesicki both expressed their belief in Jones.
“I’ll just say this about Mac, man. I’ll go to battle with No. 10 any day of the week,” Henry said. “I love competing with that guy every single day, and I’ll go to war with him wherever it is, man – conditions cold, rainy, beautiful day, a hot day, whatever it is. The dude’s a competitor, and it’s fun to go out there and play with a guy like that.”
“Mac played great all day,” Gesicki said. “He was locked in and was putting the ball where it had to go. I love having 10 back there as our leader. He was locked in all day from the first down.”
The Patriots’ offensive line played surprisingly well for being down three starters. The team’s defense made stops when it needed to most. And Jones had open receivers.
Still, it doesn’t feel like this loss falls entirely on the young QB.