Do we have a quarterback controversy in New England?
Mac Jones gave what was likely the worst performance of his NFL career in Sunday's 38-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The 25-year-old quarterback completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 150 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. One of his interceptions resulted in a pick-6, and he also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Jones was removed from the game in the third quarter. Bailey Zappe took over and didn't fare any better.
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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did his best after the defeat to squash the inevitable QB debate that will unfold in the coming week, saying that Jones will be the starter moving forward, including next Sunday's Week 5 matchup versus the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium.
Belichick also tried to make it clear that he didn't bench Jones for performance.
“No. I said there was no point in leaving him out there, so I took him out," he explained.
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Jones played awful Sunday. There's no other way to describe it. His decision-making was poor. He wasn't accurate throwing the ball. There wasn't anything to like from that outing. It certainly looked like Jones was benched due to performance. It's also possible that Belichick just didn't want to risk injury to Jones when the outcome was already decided.
Despite Jones' lackluster performance, he's still without question the best quarterback for this team. Zappe is a tier (or two) below him. Third-string quarterback Will Grier has played in just two games since being drafted in 2019. Jones is the best option on the roster by far. And he is not as bad as we saw Sunday. Jones can play a lot better. And it's going to take a total team effort for that to happen.
The offensive line needs to protect better. That unit also needs to cut down on the penalties. The rushing attack has been dreadful with the exception of Week 3. Those guys need to get going, too.
There's no more margin of error for the Patriots, though. It's gone. They need to show significant improvement ASAP to have any shot of contending for a playoff spot late in the season. For that scenario to unfold, Jones must play better and have the support of the coaching staff and his teammates.