ARLINGTON, Texas – Amid the worst loss of his head coaching career, Patriots coach Bill Belichick retired starting quarterback Mac Jones with 3:41 left in the third quarter, saying it wasn’t a bench change and that Jones remained the team’s No. 1 option.
“I didn’t think there was any point in leaving him in the game,” Belichick said after his New England Patriots were beaten 38-3 by the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
The Patriots (1-3) host the Saints (2-2) on Sunday and Belichick said the plan is for Jones, despite a disastrous performance against the Cowboys that included an interception for a touchdown, another interception on the return and a included being in the starting lineup. The lost fumble was returned for a touchdown.
Jones, the 2021 first-round pick from Alabama, finished the game 12 of 21 for 150 yards and three turnovers.
“I’m definitely disappointed in myself. I feel like I can play a lot better,” Jones said. “I invested a lot and I feel really bad. I let down my team, the coaches, the entire organization, everyone – the fans. I have to put out a better product to beat good teams.”
The Patriots have scored 55 points this season, their fewest in four games since the 2000 season – Belichick’s first season as coach – when they had 51 points Sunday in the first quarter, things imploded for Jones over a 17-minute stretch from the start of the second quarter until the team’s first drive of the second half.
“I feel like I’ve made progress so far this year. Just not today. I definitely took a few steps back,” Jones said.
The slide began when Jones failed to convert a sneak on fourth-and-1. On the next drive, he held the ball loosely while escaping pressure before being hit from behind and losing the ball, which was returned by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch for an 11-yard touchdown. After a three-and-out, the next drive ended when Jones threw a dangerous pass down the field and cornerback DaRon Bland returned the pass 54 yards for a score. And on the first drive of the second half, Jones was moving back when he lofted a pass that Bland easily intercepted.
“Just not good enough for me. It wasn’t my day. You can’t turn the ball over like that and beat good teams,” Jones said. “I think it will be a good test for me to focus on what I can control and that is playing better. Hopefully there are better days ahead. Just bury it, try to learn from it, and move on – not “I won’t turn it into another loss.”
His teammates rallied behind Jones, who is 93 of 146 for 898 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions this season.
“That’s my type. I will support him. I think everyone will do it,” said veteran tight end Hunter Henry. “None of us are happy. We all need to get better.”
Center David Andrews added: “I think we all have a few confidence issues after a performance like that. It’s a team game. We all need to look in the mirror. It’s not just his fault.”
As Jones left the interview room Sunday night, he hugged defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr.
“I have a lot of confidence in Mac,” Wise said. “Mac is a worker, he’s a competitor, he tries to make plays. Sometimes when you try to make plays it doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to. He’s been here for three years and has made some great plays in his career.”
“This game is one of those games that just happens, but we’re still behind him. We will still be behind him tomorrow and the day after. I believe in him 100%.”