Mac Jones to remain Patriots starter after benching in loss to Cowboys, Bill Belichick says

Mac Jones to remain Patriots starter after benching in loss to Cowboys, Bill Belichick says

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Mac Jones to remain Patriots starter after benching in loss to Cowboys, Bill Belichick says
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The New England Patriots pulled starting quarterback Mac Jones late in the third quarter Sunday as the team fell to the Dallas Cowboys in a 38-3 blowout, but coach Bill Belichick said he will be the starter next week versus the New Orleans Saints. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Jones was replaced by Bailey Zappe after the starter completed 12 of 21 passes for 150 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
  • Belichick said Jones wasn’t benched due to poor performance. “Didn’t think there was any point in leaving him out there,” he said.
  • Zappe finished 4-of-9 passing for 57 yards. The 35-point loss was the largest margin of defeat in the Belichick era.
  • Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott completed 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown with zero interceptions, earning a 108.5 passer rating.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

Helping Jones hasn’t worked

The Patriots suddenly have questions — and a significant problem — at quarterback. They spent training camp trying to lean into what Mac Jones does best. They hired an established offensive coordinator that they trusted in Bill O’Brien. They let him build a playbook with input from Jones that included plays with which Jones feels comfortable.

But three-and-a-half games into the season, Jones was benched for making mistakes that even rookies don’t make. He threw across his body for a pick six, threw another interception with a terrible pass, and fumbled on a play that resulted in a Cowboys touchdown. It was the worst game of his career and sets up questions now about whether he’ll be the starting quarterback the rest of the season — let alone next year.

This is an unmitigated disaster for Belichick. Four years after Tom Brady left, he was supposed to have rebuilt this team however he pleased to again be contending for AFC East titles. Instead, the Patriots are 3-9 in their last 12 games. They lost Sunday by 35 points — the most the Patriots have ever lost in the Belichick era. As he chases the all-time wins record (he’s 18 shy of passing Don Shula for the mark), the Patriots are spiraling. — Graff

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So where do the Pats go from here?

The Patriots have invested in Jones, selecting him in the first round in 2021, then letting him have a hand in the development of this offense through training camp. But performances like Sunday’s and the subsequent benching have to open discussion about forcing the Patriots back to the drawing board at the most important position. Are they willing to pull the plug on Jones one month into the season in favor of Zappe? Or do they hope that Sunday was just one disastrous game from Jones with better results on the horizon? — Graff

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Dallas bounces back in a big way

The Cowboys needed the response they showed Sunday against the Patriots. A week before traveling to San Francisco to take on arguably the NFC’s best team, the same 49ers franchise that has ended Dallas’ last two seasons, the Cowboys dominated New England. The Cowboys’ defense set the tone, proving that last Sunday was an outlier. And when that defense shows up, the Cowboys can beat anyone. The red zone offense still wasn’t great, and it will need to be much better to win at San Francisco, but that shouldn’t overshadow how good they looked in all other areas. A 3-1 record to start the season looks pretty good when the three victories were by a combined 108-13. — Machota

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Bland filling big shoes

DaRon Bland was already a highly regarded player by the Cowboys coming into this season after he burst onto the scene last year as a rookie with five interceptions. As a rookie, he got his playing time filling in for an injured Jourdan Lewis. This season, he was seen as a comfortable No. 3 option at corner behind Stephon Gilmore and Trevon Diggs.

With Diggs’ season over because of a torn ACL suffered in practice a little over a week ago, Bland was thrust into a bigger role on the outside opposite of Gilmore. Against the Patriots, he showed why the Cowboys were confident in him to fill in the big shoes of Diggs. Bland had two interceptions of Jones, including one returned for a touchdown. His first interception was the dagger for the game and came as the Patriots were driving. Bland is not only a reliable technical corner but is also consistently around the ball and makes big plays. On Sunday, he was the Cowboys’ best player and had the team’s best play. — Yousuf

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Required reading

(Photo: Tim Heitman / USA Today)



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Mac Jones to remain Patriots starter after benching in loss to Cowboys, Bill Belichick says

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