New England Patriots: In Brady vs. Belichick, Mac Jones the clear winner

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

It’s safe to say there was a lot of hype surrounding the New England Patriots Week 4 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tom Brady’s return to Gillette Stadium was met with much fanfare, and it was easily the hottest subject in the sports world for the past week or so.

Not many expected the game to deliver when it was time for the teams to take the field, yet in a surprising turn of events, it actually did. The Patriots ended up taking yet another tough loss in this one, with the final score settling in at 19-17. But the fact that the game was even that close has to be considered a win in it’s own right.

The Bucs were largely expected to demolish the Pats. The Bucs are defending Super Bowl champions, and while they were coming off a tough loss against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, they are still seen as the frontrunner in a crowded NFC conference. The Patriots were already 1-2, and suffered a rather embarrassing defeat against the New Orleans Saints the week before.

Yet the game ended up being a hard fought affair between both squads, and came right down to the final minute of action. With all the attention focused on Brady and New England’s head coach, Bill Belichick, some of the other storylines ended up getting lost in the shuffle. One of those storylines was Mac Jones, and on a night where everything seemed geared towards Brady and Belichick, Jones emerged as the clear winner on a gloomy Sunday night.

Mac Jones & the New England Patriots make a statement to the rest of the NFL

You can’t really blame New England Patriots fans for getting down on their favorite team’s prospects heading into this game. Tampa Bay features one of the most explosive offenses in the league, as well as a destructive defense. New England really showed nothing in their first three games that gave anyone a clue this game would be close.

But against all odds, they went blow for blow with Tampa deep into the fourth quarter, and again found themselves in position to come out on top. The primary reason for that was the Pats rookie quarterback, Mac Jones.

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On a night where the Patriots needed Jones to show up more than ever, the Alabama product had the best game of his young career. After a bit of a slow start, Jones eased himself into the game, and by the second half, the Bucs depleted secondary had no answer for the young shotcaller. He demonstrated a complete control of the offense as well, regularly making pre-snap reads and audibles to help his team move the ball.

Jones completed 31 of his 40 pass attempts for 275 yards and two touchdowns, with one of the only knocks being an interception he threw in the first quarter. Considering the fact that the ground game contributed only eight carries for -1 yards, and the fact the Bucs were blitzing Jones all night long, only makes his outing more impressive.

He even completed 19 straight passes during a stretch of the game. For reference, 19 straight completions is the most Brady has had over any stretch of his career. The fact that it took Jones only four games to hit such a mark is mightily impressive.

Speaking of Mr. Brady, it’s not a stretch to say he was outplayed by Jones in this one. Brady posted a relatively mediocre statline (22/43, 269 YDS, 0 TDS or INTS), and seemed to struggle with both the rain and the Patriots defense in this one. New England’s front seven did a good job making Brady uncomfortable for most of the night, and the secondary did a great job at containing his arsenal of weapons.

For all the comparisons made between Brady and Jones ever since he was drafted by the New England Patriots, it was hard not to see the comparison when both went head to head last night. They both limited their mistakes, got the ball out quickly, and put their team in position to win.

Much like the buildup to the game, the aftermath has focused primarily on the Brady/Belichick matchup, especially considering Brady and Belichick had a private meeting for 20 minutes after the game ended. As a result, it’s not a surprise Jones’ stellar outing has flown under the radar. Brady and Belichick were always going to be the hot topics from this game, but Jones’ performance makes him a clear winner in the aftermath of this one.

Let’s face it; Jones was better than Brady last night. He also did it with a notably thinner supporting cast. Brady was struggling to hit the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown. Jones was making due with Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor among others.

This isn’t set out to discount Brady’s performance (after all, he did win), but the cards were stacked against Jones from the start. The Bucs roster is much more talented than New England’s. Not to mention, he was facing an unimaginable amount of pressure taking on the guy he has been tasked with replacing.

Yet Jones didn’t let any of that bother him. He dealt with the lack of support, the constant blitzing and hits, and all the pressure that came with the game, and completely ignored it. He willed an offense that looked lifeless for the first three weeks of the season up and down the field against one of the top defenses in the league.

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All this goes without saying this was only Jones’ fourth game in the NFL. He’s still learning the game, but the fact that he already has an experience like this under his belt is huge for his development. The cherry on top is that he stepped up to the plate and gave the New England Patriots a chance to win a game they weren’t really expected to be competitive in.

The initial returns on Jones are extremely encouraging. In just his fourth game, he went toe to toe with the greatest player in NFL history, and nearly pulled out an improbable victory. Enough of the Brady/Belichick chatter, make this your new storyline; Mac Jones is already the real deal, and he’s only going to get better.