Receivers let Mac Jones down on the biggest plays, and other final thoughts from Patriots-Commanders

Patriots

Jones put the ball where it needed to be on the three biggest throws of the game, but two of them ended up being drops.

Mac Jones’s receivers didn’t do their part on his biggest throws of the game. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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Commentary

FOXBOROUGH — The results aren’t there right now, it stinks, and there are no excuses.

That’s what Mac Jones said about the Patriots’ performance after a 20-17 loss at Gillette Stadium dropped the Patriots to 2-7 on the season.

The ending was familiar for New England, which found itself with the ball trailing by one score with about two minutes to go yet again. Most of New England’s losses this year have been decided by a touchdown or less.

“The hard part is knowing what you’re capable of doing, and not being able to do it,” Patriots receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said after the game.

The Patriots’ inability to close was on display when Mack Wilson was whistled for offsides on a punt attempt that allowed the Commanders to keep the ball after New England secured a key third-down stop late in the fourth quarter.

Then, it resurfaced even after the defense got another stop when Mac Jones threw a pass that hit Smith-Schuster in the hands and bounced into the waiting hands of Washington’s Jartavius Martin. The turnover effectively ended the game.

Here are a few final thoughts from the action.

The receivers have to step up.

While it’s Jones’s name that goes next to the interception in the box score, the turnover clearly wasn’t his fault. Smith-Schuster said so after the game.

Jones’s performance (22 of 44 for 220 yards, a touchdown, and an interception) wasn’t flawless. But, one could argue that he put the ball where it needed to be on the three biggest throws of the game: the Smith-Schuster drop, a deep ball that went through Jalen Reagor’s hands, and his lone touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.

Reagor was a step ahead of his defender but the ball went right through his hands. He was well into the red zone at the time of the drop, and the Patriots would have been well-positioned to tie the game or take a lead in the third quarter if he caught it. It was an aggressive call on first-and-10 that nearly paid off.

Jones hit Henry with a well-placed pass on a 14-yard seam route for the touchdown. The catch, which was New England’s first score of the day, was a needed breakthrough that shortened a double-digit deficit in the second quarter.

The Patriots were shorthanded at receiver with Kendrick Bourne out for the season, DeVante Parker out with a head injury, and Kayshon Boutte inactive for the game.

That’s not an excuse for Sunday’s performance, but Jones says he’s focused on showing New England’s receivers that he still has confidence in them.

“I think just for me, just keep communicating, keep instilling confidence in everybody, letting them know that I trust them because I do,” Jones said. “I wouldn’t throw it in there, fire it in there if I didn’t think they were going to get open. So, that’s part of the game. Sometimes it’s days like that, it’s weeks like that where there’s bang bang plays all round.”

The defense forced two huge turnovers, and it wasn’t enough.

Jahlani Tavai forced a fumble on a Brian Robinson carry in the second quarter. The Patriots recovered the ball at the 25-yard line, setting up Jones’s touchdown pass to Henry.

Later in the second quarter, Washington quarterback Sam Howell had first-and-goal at New England’s 5-yard line and squandered it by throwing an interception right to Kyle Dugger.

It was Dugger’s second game in a row with an interception.

Jawhaun Bentley added 13 tackles and two sacks.

New England’s only turnover was Jones’s interception on the final drive. For the second straight week, the Patriots lost the game despite winning the turnover battle 2-1.

“Very frustrated. I know everybody is in that locker room,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “I feel like I’ve been saying it every week, we put a lot of work in so it’s frustrating, and it hurts. Yeah, it’s tough.”

Play of the Day: Rhamondre Stevenson’s 64-yard touchdown run.

One of the bright spots from the Patriots’ offense was a 64-yard touchdown run from Rhamondre Stevenson.

It was the Patriots’ longest offensive play since 2021. Blocking from David Andrews, Sidy Sow, and Reagor helped pave the way for Stevenson’s score.

“They were in an even wide front, when teams do that really not on a pass-rush down you can kind of expect something coming inside,” Andrews said. “They brought a blitz and we did a good job of picking it up and giving these backs space. They did a great job, and Mondre did a great job reading it. It was a good play. Just have to build on it.”

Matthew Slater and David Andrews discussed the road ahead.

Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater was asked why it’s important for the team to keep believing in themselves when success has been so scarce this season.

“If you live life without faith, in my opinion, you’re lost,” Slater said. “So, If our football team wants to be lost for the rest of the year then we could leave our faith outside.

“But, if we’re bringing our faith in then we have a chance to play for the things that matter,” Slater continued. “Your pride, the way you respect the game, the way you respect your teammates, the way you respect the process. All that matters regardless of the circumstances. So, I hope our group will continue to do that.”

While the result was disappointing, Andrews said he’s focused on getting ready for next week.

“It’s not going to break my spirit, it’s not going to break our spirit,” Andrews said. “We’re going to take tonight, come back to work tomorrow, and see what we can do to correct it and get ready to go to Germany to play Indy.”


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