Mac Jones shows composure, resolve in narrow loss to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers
While the big story all week was Tom Brady vs. Bill Belichick, it was Mac Jones — the rookie 15th overall pick who has replaced Brady (sorry, Cam, but it wasn’t meant to be) as Belichick’s franchise quarterback. While Jones still has more than a few rough spots in his game, he was up to the task on Sunday night against a beaten-up Buccaneers secondary. Jones finished his night completing 31 of 40 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 19-17 loss to Brady’s new team.
Jones was even-keeled all week as the stories spun around his head, and it was Jones — not Brady — who managed to put together two touchdown drives. This after a 28-13 loss to the Saints last Sunday in which Jones completed 30 of 51 passes for 270 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions — not to mention a line of 1-for-11 for 27 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception on passes of 20 or more air yards. This time around, per Next Gen Stats, the plan was for Jones to stay within himself. He attempted just one pass of more than 20 air yards this time around, and that pass was intercepted by safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
(Next Gen Stats)
Jones was undoubtedly aided by the fact that Tampa Bay’s secondary came into this game so depleted, that Richard Sherman, who signed a few days ago, started in the cornerback group. This issue further manifested itself when cornerback Carlton Davis left the game with a leg injury late in the first half, and Winfield left in the second half with a concussion. But Jones also had to know who to pick on, and he managed pressure far better than he did against New Orleans last week.
At one point, Jones had 19 straight completions, which matched the most Brady has ever enjoyed in his illustrious career. He was at his best when asked to run no-huddle, where it was easier for him to read what the Buccaneers were sending at him. And in the same inclement weather that had Brady winging the ball all over the place at times, Jones was occasionally scattershot, but mostly efficient.
Tampa Bay’s defense also had to deal with the usual array of Belichick trick plays, such as this bit of razzle-dazzle that led to a 30-yard pass from receiver Jakobi Myers to receiver Nelson Agholor.
But in the end, it was Jones who had to keep everything together. He had to be the eye in the middle, and he did so as you would expect from a guy who smoked Ohio State for five touchdown passes in the most recent College Football Championship game. Jones is still under development, but there doesn’t seem to be a stage too big for him.
“Not really,” Jones said, when asked this week if he had thought about the pressure of the moment. “I mean, it’s really just us against the other team, and that’s how it always will be, and it’s not like one person versus one person, so I think that a lot of it is 11 on 11, and that’s what goes into it, and that’s how they’re going to look at it. That’s how every team looks at it. It’s just you’re getting a chance to compete in a primetime game, and it just kind of is what it is.”
Well, that’s a Belichick answer. And Mac Jones appears to be a Belichick quarterback.