For the third time in ten games this season, Mac Jones had to go to the bench in the final minutes.
With less than two minutes left in regulation, Bill Belichick opted to put the ball in the hands of Bailey Zappé for a potentially game-winning drive against the Colts – giving the second-year QB a pass at a critical time in the game his first snaps since week 5 competitive game in Germany.
Belichick’s sudden roster shuffle wasn’t unwarranted, especially after Jones was brought down for a brutal backfoot throw that resulted in an interception at the Colts’ two-yard line.
Jones’ decision-making errors and errant throws have often cost New England in crucial spots during the 2023 season, with Jones now leading the NFL with 10 picks in 10 games.
As expected, Belichick did not elaborate on the decision to remove Jones from the game in favor of Zappe after New England ultimately lost 10-6.
“I just thought it was time for a change,” the New England coach said.
Patriots players were also asked about Jones’ recent bench move and the long-term implications of such a move.
Several Patriots captains chose to take their cues from Belichick’s side when asked about Jones’ recent bench appearance.
“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] The best thing for the football team.”
“I don’t make all these decisions,” tight end Hunter Henry added. “I think you’ll have to ask Coach.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster speaks to reporters in the Patriots locker room said he was “surprised” Jones can be seen sitting 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. He shows in practice what he can do. I have no doubt he can come and do the job.”
While New England’s players may not want to comment on Belichick’s plays, the question remains how much confidence Jones’ teammates have in him after a poor throw cost them another narrow victory.
“We put in a lot of work, so I still have confidence,” Henry said of Jones’ position as QB1.
Whether or not Jones is named New England’s starter in the next game against the Giants on November 26 at MetLife Stadium, it is clear that New England needs to improve its offensive approach, especially if it results in fewer throws to its quarterbacks.
When asked if New England needs to make a change at QB, he responded: Ezekiel Elliott tells Chad Graff of The Athletic: “I think we showed today what a good running team we have.”
New England’s ground game was one of the few positives in an otherwise frustrating game at Deutsche Bank Park. Both Rhamondre Stevenson and Elliott combined for 142 total rushing yards, with both backs averaging over four yards per carry.
For captain Matthew Slater, the most important thing for Jones going forward is to limit the outside noise after another stunning result.
“He has to stay positive,” Slater said of Jones. “At the moment everyone is counting on him. I’m sure there are a lot of negatives. There is a lot of negativity surrounding our team. We have to ignore all of this because it shouldn’t affect how we work on a daily basis.
“You can’t allow people who don’t know half of what’s going on inside the building to influence what’s going on inside the building. That’s why he has to stay positive. He has to ignore the noise. Keep his head down. And keep working like the rest of us.”
Staying away from social media is a good move for Jones going forward, as even some former Patriots like Julian Edelman, James White and Deion Branch couldn’t hide their frustration after his costly interception in the fourth quarter.
Sign up for Patriots updates🏈
Get breaking news and analysis in your inbox throughout football season.