The New England Patriots can’t afford to lose many games if they want to make the playoffs, but one spot where it’s not all that bad to take an L is against the reigning NFC Champions. And Sunday’s loss, while it would have been nicer as a W, gave fans a lot of room to be optimistic about this 2023.
Even more than that, though, it gave Mac Jones a chance to show us what he’s made of, and he really does have what it takes to lead this team.
First of all, Mac Jones was phenomenal in the game.
This was the first time in his career that he’s thrown for both 300-plus yards and 3-plus touchdowns in the same game. Those 316 yards were the third-most he’s ever thrown for in a single game, and it was only the third time he’s thrown for 3 TDs without also throwing 3 interceptions.
And it’s not like he was up against a poor defense like the times he beat that yardage total (against the Jags and the Browns) — this was against a defense that ranked No. 1 against the pass in 2022 and that hasn’t really lost any key pieces for 2023.
Oh, and Mac did it without either of his starting guards.
The pick-six and generally taking a full quarter to get the offense up to speed hurt, absolutely, but the fact that he overcame those early struggles to have one of the best performances of his career? That shows some serious resilience.
Jones and Bill O’Brien are clearly clicking in a way he never did with Matt Patricia, and that’s just the on-field stuff.
Those post-game comments — taking the loss fully on his own shoulders, not complaining about anything else that happened and not being happy to celebrate his personal success in a loss — are the kind of leadership we need at the quarterback position.
This was always going to be a make-or-break season for Jones, and some quarterbacks don’t respond well to that kind of pressure. They can’t handle it, they crumple, and they look to blame teammates, referees, coaches or anyone else that will help them try to excuse why they weren’t up to the task.
A win would have shown us all that on-field stuff, sure. We would’ve seen that he’s playing the best football of his career. But we wouldn’t have seen the maturity he got to display in this loss. The leadership he proved by taking credit for a loss, when we all know his play is one of the main reasons we had a shot at a win at all.
Jones got one of his toughest tests in the season right off the jump in Week 1, and he proved to be more than ready for it.
Would we have liked to start the season with a win? Of course. But this loss should give Pats fans a ton of optimism, both around what this team can do in 2023 and around how Mac Jones can lead the franchise beyond that as well.
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