Mac Jones is a quick study — but not quite quick enough. The New England Patriots couldn’t quite pull off a comeback over the Dallas Cowboys, who managed a walk-off touchdown in overtime, with Dak Prescott finding CeeDee Lamb for 35 yards. The Cowboys won, 35-29.
The Patriots rookie quarterback was nearly the scapegoat then the hero in regulation. He threw a pick-six to Trevon Diggs with two and a half minutes left in the game. The Patriots had needed just a first down to win it. Instead, they gave Dallas the lead. Then Jones did something remarkable. He hit Kendrick Bourne for 75 yards on the following play with Diggs in coverage. It was a truly special play: gutsy as any play he’d made all year. But he left 2:11 on the clock for the Cowboys, who managed to tie the game, send it to overtime and win it in walk-off fashion. Jones and the Patriots opened the overtime with the ball, but had to punt after moving the ball just 21 yards.
It was a remarkable performance by the Patriots defense — until that final drive in overtime. But that’s the one that decided it.
That touchdown to Bourne was just ridiculous
Again, the interception was extremely bad and, ultimately, cost the Patriots the game. But my goodness, the touchdown was insane. Not only did Jones get aggressive on the deep shot to Bourne, but the target was with Diggs in coverage. Jones went right back at the guy who’d tried to steal the game from the Patriots.
It was as gutsy as it gets. It’s too early to say whether Jones will be a special player in this league. But if you want to make the case that Bill Belichick picked a good one, tonight would help you make a pretty darn good case. Jones finished 15/21 of 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The Cowboys simply could not get out of their own way with penalties
On the final drive of regulation, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Cowboys back 15 yards — and took away a down — on the team’s final drive. They managed a game-tying field goal, which sent the game into overtime. But maybe they would have managed a touchdown, if not for the penalty.
The Cowboys also generated a number of offensive plays which never saw the stat sheet, because of Tyron Smith’s holding penalties. The most notable was a 44-yard pass for Cedric Wilson which came back because of defensive end Deatrich Wise, who drew two holds and an illegal hands to the face in the first quarter. Later in the game, the Patriots got a free 15 yards and a first down on play that was a two-yard loss, because of a horse-collar tackle.
The short-yardage defense was absolutely insane
The biggest play of the first half came in the final minutes, when Dak Prescott was attempting to sneak for a 1-inch touchdown on fourth down. It was a bold decision, one of many from Dallas on the day. And linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley made a remarkable play, jumping over the offensive line and punching at Prescott’s arm. He fumbled the ball away before breaking the plane of the end zone — a call which the officials ruled after initially calling the play a touchdown. It was a wild, 7-point turn for New England.
And that wasn’t it in short-yardage for the Patriots. On the Cowboys’ opening drive of the game, they decided to go for a fourth-and-1 at midfield, but linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty converged upon the ball and stopped Ezekiel Elliott. The Patriots offense capitalized, too. On the following drive, they quickly brought the ball down the field and scored a touchdown to take the early lead.
Jones was throwing with a heightened level of anticipation
On Jones’ first touchdown pass, the quarterback managed to throw the ball before his tight end Hunter Henry had even gotten into his break. That’s the level of chemistry Jones has developed with Henry, who has a touchdown in each of the last three games. Jones was throwing with a level of anticipation which we haven’t seen from the the young quarterback.
He did something similar with a 27-yarder to Nelson Agholor. Just as the receiver broke to his right, Jones put the ball in the air, which helped ensure only Agholor could haul in the ball.
It was just one of the many ways Jones showed progress on Sunday night.
Kyle Dugger’s 3-point interception. Jonathan Jones’ 4-point pass breakup.
In the first half, safety Kyle Dugger logged an interception in the end zone with the Cowboys on the 16-yard line. The fact that he was able to nab that turnover meant the Patriots defense wiped at least three points off the board, with the Cowboys likely to kick a field goal on the following down, if not for Dugger’s interception. Cornerback Justin Bethel, filling in for an injured Jonathan Jones, managed to log the pass breakup that tipped the ball up to Dugger.
While I’m not always kind to Bethel, his deflection was huge, with the cornerback jumping a target that was slightly behind Cedric Wilson.
On the Cowboys’ following series, Jones was in coverage of Wilson, who seemed to have hauled in a touchdown. But as Wilson skidded the ground, the ball popped free, due largely to Jones’ persistence. He jarred the ball free. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal on the following play. It was a clear example of a 4-point play.
Bill Belichick was bleeding. No one knows why.
Considering all the insanity that transpired during the game, it somehow made sense that the Patriots coach was bleeding, inexplicably. It appeared he had a scratch on his nose and had to wipe blood away from his mouth.
Why? Well, it’s anyone’s guess.
Josh McDaniels loves the wildcat at the goal line
For the second straight week, Jones played receiver and Damien Harris played quarterback. That’s right: Wildcat! It wasn’t a formation the Patriots used often over the last decade. Now they’ve run it in consecutive weeks for a touchdown.
Not bad, Josh McDaniels.
Even with the team’s top tackles on the field, the Patriots offensive line had issues on the edge
The Patriots started the game with left tackle Justin Herron and right tackle Yodny Cajuste. When they allowed a bone-crushing sack on Jones, who fumbled the football, the Patriots replaced both tackles at once, putting in Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu.
Onwenu practiced all week after spending a week on the COVID-19/reserve list. Wynn didn’t practice at all, only getting back on the roster on Saturady.
Wynn looked a little like a guy who hadn’t practiced. Here’s one of his worst reps of the day.
The rotation didn’t stop, with the team continuing to try different combinations, with hopes of getting any sort of semblance of protection for Jones.