Mac Jones talks benching against Dallas, message to Bailey Zappe, and more on WEEI

Patriots

“I have to believe in myself. And I didn’t really give them a lot to believe in the other night.”

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones sits on the bench late in the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.
Mac Jones and the Patriots will look to avoid a 1-4 start this weekend against the Saints. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Patriots QB Mac Jones appeared on WEEI’s “Jones & Mego” show on Monday evening, touching on a variety of topics including his benching against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and New England’s slew of injuries on defense.

Here are a few highlights from Jones’ extended radio interview:

Jones talks benching 

Jones’ and the Patriots offense hit a new low during Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys, with Jones getting the hook in the third quarter after New England fell into a 31-3 hole.

Jones’ own play contributed to yet another steep deficit for New England, with the QB completing just 12 of his 20 passes for 150 yards and getting knocked for two interceptions and a fumble — with two of those turnovers directly leading to Dallas touchdowns.

As expected, Jones didn’t elaborate much when asked about his sideline conversations with Bill Belichick on Sunday — both before and after he was benched at AT&T Stadium.

“I think just the way the game went, I mean, it is what it is,” Jones said when asked for the reasoning behind his benching. “And for me, obviously [I] didn’t play well in that game. So [I’ve] got to do things better in practice, that’s where it kind of starts.”

With Jones spending most of the second half of Sunday’s game on the sidelines, New England turned to Bailey Zappe to close out the team’s lopsided loss.

Zappe completed four of his nine passing attempts for 57 yards in the loss.

As for Jones’ message to Zappe going into what was a 28-point deficit?

“We talk always on the sideline,” Jones said of his conversations with Zappe. “So for me, just trying to give him advice, just go out there and sling in. At the end of the day, we were down by a lot. So it’s a tough position.”

Turnovers continue to thwart New England’s offense

Plenty has gone wrong for New England’s offense so far this season, whether it be a stagnant run game, a dysfunctional offensive line, or a lack of separation for Jones’ receiving targets.

But when it comes to the chief factor that has played into New England’s dreadful starts so far in 2023, turnovers continue to rear their heads at critical junctures for this offense.

Through four games, New England has surrendered 64 first-half points in 2023. Thirty-five of those points have been a direct result of turnovers, including three defensive touchdowns.

Jones’ struggles with taking care of the football allowed Dallas to land a knockout blow early at AT&T Stadium.

“What you emphasize is what you get. A coach told me that a long time ago, so whatever you put an emphasis on is kind of what you’re gonna see improvement on,” Jones said. “So we’ve definitely emphasized it and as players and me especially you just got to do a better job with it. And, you know, the ball is job security. So I understand that and really, it’s time to make make action on that quickly.”

On New England’s third drive of the night, Dante Fowler strip-sacked Jones on the Patriots’ six-yard line, with Leighton Vander Esch recovering the pigskin and running into the end zone to give the Cowboys a 15-point advantage.

After a 3-and-out, New England’s following drive in the second quarter also ended in disaster, with a poor throw from Jones to Kendrick Bourne getting snagged by Daron Bland en route to a pick-six.

“For me, just stick to my reads and try not to have those turnovers,” Jones said. “You take away those turnovers and it’s a different story. So [I] have to learn to do that better. I gotta learn quick.

“Now’s the time and I’m gonna put a lot of time into that and focus on what I can do better. And the guys around me are doing a good job. We’re definitely working hard. So just excited to try and come out of this hole that I dug.”

Injuries hampered New England’s defense

Bill Belichick and his coaching staff already have their work cut out for them when it comes to trying to revive this stagnant offense going into Week 5 against New Orleans.

But the Patriots are also dealing with the severe sting of the injury bug on the other side of the ball, with New England potentially forced to trudge ahead without its two most impactful defensive players in Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Gonzalez and Judon are both expected to be out indefinitely after getting injured on Sunday. 

Schefter reported that Gonzalez injured his shoulder, while Judon suffered a lower bicep tendon tear against Dallas. Both are seeking second opinions on their respective ailments.

New England’s secondary unit was already decimated before Gonzalez’s injury. Entering Week 4 in Dallas, the Patriots were already without cornerbacks Marcus Jones (IR), Jack Jones (IR), and Jonathan Jones, who has missed the last three games with an ankle injury.

“Judon and [Gonzalez], they’re doing a great job, man. It’s sucks to see that,” Jones said of Gonzalez and Judon’s injuries. “Judon has obviously been a great leader here since I’ve gotten here, and I don’t know the extent of all that stuff, but [I] hope they’re doing good.

“Christian, I mean, he’s come in and worked really hard. He just does his job. And he looks really good out there. So it’s kind of a bummer, for sure. But we know that there’s guys that will step up and do their job as well.”

Looking ahead

After fielding plenty of questions about the Cowboys, Jones was understandably relieved that the focus of Monday’s interview shifted toward New England’s next game — a home matchup against the Saints.

“Yeah, that’s a great question, finally something about New Orleans,” Jones said with a laugh. “But yeah — definitely a good defense. Also played against them my rookie year and they’ve got a lot of veterans on their team, some really good players, good coach, very sound across the board.

“So, definitely a challenge and I think just for us, we’ve got to focus on us. For me, just what can I do better? Can I read this play? How? Which way do I have to start? Where are my eyes? How’s my footwork? All that stuff so just try to get on track there and go out there and play football.”

Despite pulling his QB1 from Sunday’s game, Belichick has already said that Jones will remain the starter moving forward. Now, the onus falls on Jones to try to right the ship for a Patriots team teetering on disaster if they drop to 1-4 following Sunday’s contest. 

“I think, for me, I just gotta go out there and win some games. And that’s what it all comes down to, is going out there and doing my part. I’m working hard. I know I can do it. I have to believe in myself. And I didn’t really give [my teammates] a lot to believe in the other night, but I will show that I can do it. And that comes from hard work and trusting myself and trusting them.”


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