For the third time in ten games this season, Mac Jones was relegated to the bench in the closing minutes.
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Bill Belichick opted to put the ball in Bailey Zappe’s hands for a potential game-winning drive against the Colts – giving the second-year QB his first snaps since Week 5 at a critical stage of a match. must-win competition in Germany.
Belichick’s sudden roster reshuffling wasn’t unwarranted, especially when Jones tapped for a brutal backfoot throw that resulted in an interception at the Colts’ two-yard line.
Jones’ decision-making mistakes and errant throws have often cost New England in key spots throughout the 2023 season, with Jones now leading the NFL with ten picks in ten games.
As expected, Belichick didn’t elaborate much on the decision to pull Jones from the game in favor of Zappe after New England’s eventual 10-6 loss.
“I thought it was time for a change,” the New England coach said.
Patriots players were also asked about the latest benching of Jones and the long-term consequences of such a move.
Several Patriots captains chose to take a page from Belichick’s book when asked about Jones’ last stint on the bench.
“I play football. That’s what I do. I play,” said center David Andrews. “I don’t make those decisions. Coaches do what they think is best for the football team.”
“I don’t make any of those decisions,” Hunter Henry added. “I think you should ask Coach.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster spoke to reporters in the Patriots’ locker room said he was “surprised.” to see Jones on the bench, according to Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald.
When asked about his confidence in Zappe as a potential replacement at QB, Smith-Schuster added: “I have a lot of confidence in him. In practice he shows spurts of what he can do. I have no doubt he can come in and get the job done.”
Even if New England’s players may not want to comment on Belichick’s moves, the question remains how much confidence Jones’ teammates have in him after a bad throw resulted in another close victory slipping through their fingers.
“We put a lot of work into it, so I’m still confident,” Henry said of Jones’ position as QB1.
Regardless of whether Jones is named New England’s starter in the next game against the Giants on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium, it’s clear New England will need to expand its offensive approach, especially if it means fewer throws from its quarterbacks.
When asked if New England should make a change at QB, Ezekiel Elliott told The Athletic’s Chad Graff: “I think we showed today how good a running team we have.”
New England’s ground game was one of the few positives in what was otherwise a frustrating game at Deutsche Bank Park. Both Rhamondre Stevenson and Elliott combined for 142 rushing yards, with both backs averaging over four yards per carry.
For captain Matthew Slater, the most important thing for Jones moving forward will be limiting outside noise after another crushing result.
“He has to stay positive,” Slater said of Jones. ‘Right now everyone is counting on him. I’m sure there’s a lot of negativity out there. There is a lot of negativity around our team. We should ignore all that because it shouldn’t affect the way we work every day.
“You can’t let people who don’t know half of what’s going on in the building influence what happens in the building. So he has to stay positive. He must ignore the noise. Keep his head down. And keep working, just like the rest of us.”
Staying off social media seems like a good move for Jones moving forward, as even a pair of former Patriots in Julian Edelman, James White and Deion Branch couldn’t mask their frustration after his costly fourth-quarter interception.
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