However, along with the fleeting clutch moments, there are too many minor details that were off in this game for Jones, who had moments where his footwork died in the pocket, causing him to lose zip on the ball, instances where the ball placement was slightly off costing yards, some hesitation at times, and Mac still feels limited on extended or second-reaction plays. When you’re a quarterback with Jones’s skill set, the finer details of the position are of heightened importance because he needs to maximize every ounce of physical ability he has to offer. His footwork, upper and lower-body mechanics, timing, decision-making, and ball placement to areas of the field he can access need to be consistent because he’s not Mahomes or Allen-like, where he’ll make up for small misses with haymakers. Right now, being near-perfect on the margins, a tall order, is a work in progress.
Several factors out of the quarterback’s control contributed to Sunday’s loss. We can get on Belichick for his fourth-down and overall roster-building decisions or nitpick the situational play-calling by O’Brien (didn’t love the third-down screens).
Ultimately, better-than-average quarterbacks find ways to win games like those where they have two chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter, and the greats overcome mistakes like early pick-sixes, drops, and the bad breaks that come their way throughout a game and season.
The offense put good things on film in the opener (see audio breakdown above) that were good enough that it’s too soon to write this group off after one loss, especially when they’re missing pieces. Still, after giving Mac a pass due to last year’s coaching setup, I vowed that this would be an excuse-free zone in year three for Jones. Mac was adequate, but he needs to be sharper on the details, or the seesawing will continue.
Here are two more takeaways and quick-hit film notes from the Patriots loss to the Eagles on Sunday:
1. How the Patriots Defense Shut Down Philly’s Read-Option Schemes
Often, when you turn on the film after a defensive performance that was perceived as dominant, you see all the plays the offense left on the field. In other words, it wasn’t as good as it initially seemed because the offense stunk.
Although this wasn’t an Eagles offense firing at all cylinders early in the season, the Pats defense was legit in this game. Their defensive front won the matchup against an elite offensive line by pressuring QB Jalen Hurts on over 42 percent of his drop-backs, held Philly to a 3.9 rushing average, and defensive play-caller Steve Belichick mixed coverages on the backend to hold Philly to -0.15 expected points added per play (22nd percentile) – this was the performance against a top offense and MVP-caliber quarterback that everyone has wanted to see.
Along with some well-timed blitzing that led to positive plays for the defense, it was also encouraging to see the Patriots have answers for the designed quarterback run game. The Eagles tried to gash the Pats on the ground with repeat plays from losses to the Ravens and Bears in the 2022 season, where those two offenses ran gap-read concepts like counter-read. Gap reads are downhill schemes that usually feature pullers as lead blockers rather than zone-read plays. Historically, gap runs have given New England’s two-gapping system issues.
Last season, the Patriots defense ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing 6.1 yards per designed quarterback rush attempt. On Sunday, the Eagles only had 46 yards on 13 runs with an option element for a 3.5-yard average, showing real progress for Belichick’s defense.