Mac Jones was benched for the third time this season in the Patriots’ 10-6 loss to the Colts, leading to further questions about his future in New England.
Bailey Zappe’s number was called for the Patriots’ final drive after they got the ball back on their own 14-yard line. The second-year quarterback couldn’t get through and threw an interception that sealed the game. But unlike the other two times Jones was benched, Bill Belichick did not conclude that Jones would start at quarterback in the Patriots’ next game, but said he would handle the situation “next week.”
When asked if he felt Belichick still believed in him, Jones said he needs to do more to get others to believe in him, before saying he wasn’t sure how his coach felt.
“At the end of the day, I have to play better,” Jones told reporters. ‘So to make people believe, you have to be better. I’m not sure. Don’t know.”
The Patriots’ decision to sign Jones came much later on Sunday than the previous two times. Jones played a relatively clean game for most of the day, completing 15 of 19 passes for 170 yards with no touchdowns but also no turnovers.
But just when it looked like the Patriots would finally reach the end zone, Jones made a monumental blunder. On second-and-12 from the Colts’ 15-yard line with just over four minutes remaining, it appeared Jones was about to have Mike Gesicki wide open in the end zone to take the lead.
But Jones cut the tight end short by several yards and threw the ball directly to Colts safety Julian Blackmon for Jones’ league-leading 10th interception of the season.
Jones took full responsibility for the piece.
“It was a terrible throw,” Jones said. “I practiced it, hit it in practice, grabbed the pitch well and I knew where to go. I just didn’t do it. I didn’t do it right.”
Jones told reporters after the game that he was “a little bruised” but said he was “fine.” However, when asked if the fault was a mechanical problem, he seemed to suggest that perhaps something was bothering him.
“Yes. There were some things I was working on,” Jones said. “But it doesn’t matter. No excuses.”
Jones learned soon after that his day was over, saying the coaching staff simply told him he was “out of the game.” Jones said he also “played very well,” and apparently understood the coaching staff’s decision.
“It’s hard, right? It’s a tough situation,” Jones said when asked what his reaction was when he was pulled. “At the end of the day, I really wanted the team to win. I will always be that person. I know we didn’t win, so it’s hard for everyone.
“I have to play better and not even get into that situation. It’s not ideal for anyone. In such a situation, no one will do anything good.”
Although the interception was Jones’ first major blunder on Sunday, the coaching staff didn’t seem too happy with him on at least one occasion. New England was unable to convert Myles Bryant’s midfield interception into a touchdown early in the second half, with Jones throwing the ball to Rhamondre Stevenson while being taken down on a third-down play.
Jones got the ball away just in time to avoid being sacked, although the ill-advised throw prevented him from being sacked for the sixth time of the day and for the fifth time on a third down play. When he returned to the sideline, the NFL Network broadcast showed offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien berating him while the two were discussing a play.
Jones provided some insight into what O’Brien told him before taking responsibility for his mistakes.
“Just trying to go through my books and hit the open man,” Jones said of what O’Brien told him. ‘I have to do my job better there. It’s really hard in the NFL. It’s a really good defense, but there were a lot of open players I could have hit.”
The Patriots enter their Week 11 still in last place in the AFC with a 2-8 record after Sunday. Jones said he still believes in himself and acknowledged he has things he “needs to fix and learn” while throwing for 2,031 yards and 10 touchdowns along with the 10 picks this season.
As Jones said, he will “use the bye week to evaluate myself, the team and anything I can do better,” although there seems to be a possibility that Jones threw his final pass with the Patriots on Sunday. While he still believes in himself, Jones knows Sunday’s loss and benching felt “a little bit” different than others this season.
“Like I said, I wasn’t playing very well,” Jones said. “I have played well before in my career, but not now. There are peaks and valleys, but I’m in a bit of a valley now and I just have to bounce back.’
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