Those came in Weeks 3 and 4 against the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both of which were losses that featured a combined 30 points from the Pats. In other words, the offense was stagnant without a potent rushing attack.
Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has greatly benefitted from New England’s cast of running backs and beastly offensive line controlling the game on the ground at times, which has led to critics suggesting he’s not taking enough shots or that he’s protected by one of the league’s best coaching staffs.
But does it really matter? Are those even real criticisms? We apologize he had a very favorable situation to enter upon being drafted … we guess?
In case any Patriots fans were hoping that narrative would disappear, Jones’ performance in Week 12 should at least start to help.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Pats had 46 total rushing yards on the day before their final few drives leaned heavily on the running game to kill clock (60 more from Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson got New England over the century mark).
What we’re trying to say is the Patriots’ offense, for the only crucial junctures of this game, was non-existent. At halftime, this was a 16-13 game. But Jones’ aggression and accuracy powered the Patriots to a convincing victory. He led the way by spreading the ball around and never taking his foot off the gas pedal.
The defense showed up too, but we wouldn’t call it a total success after having given up 270 yards on the ground. An interception in the end zone and two fumbles in New England territory limited Tennessee’s point total to 13.
Jones struck with precision to keep the Pats humming. He hit seven different receivers and finished 23-of-32 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Brandon Bolden had four or more catches. Jonnu Smith had his best game as a Patriot with three catches for 49 yards as well as a rush for nine yards.
The rookie QB was asked to shoulder the load and he did without issue. To the tune of a 36-13 victory. There was no sweating for pretty much the final 15 minutes of the game. We’re not saying Jones has transformed into a generation quarterback, but he just proved that he can captain an offense against a playoff team when his ground game can’t get anything going.
We’d sure love to see it again, but this is the clearest evidence to date that Jones is not limited to being fully dependent on the offense being successful in one specific dimension.