NFL

Mac Jones continues his case as best rookie QB of the season

The young quarterback topped 300 yards in the Patriots win over the Titans on Sunday with two TDs and no interceptions, even with mistakes in the red zone.

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Mac Jones continues his case as best rookie QB of the season
Kevin C. Cox AFP

The Patriots got their sixth straight win with a 36-13 victory over the injury-riddled Titans on Sunday. The Patriots improve to 8-4 with this win and reclaim their spot at the top of the AFC East. Depending on who wins the Ravens vs Browns game, the Patriots will be either first or second in the AFC.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones had another big game, completing 23 of 32 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. That made him the third quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards against the Titans’ defense this season. It wasn’t a perfect game. He made some big mistakes in the red zone. However, he still continues to be the best rookie quarterback of the 2021 season by far.

FOOTBALL-NFL-NEP-TEN/Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws a pass during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Jones-Bourne connection

Jones has developed a nice connection with Kendrick Bourne. In the Patriots opening drive, Jones threw a perfect third-down pass to Bourne who made a 4-yard catch for the touchdown. They connected again in the third quarter for a 41-yard touchdown run. On three of Bourne’s four touchdowns this season, the probability of completion was below 30 percent. Translation: the likelihood of Bourne making Jones' catches are low, and they're still able to complete them. When targeting Bourne, Jones was five-for-six for 61 yards and two touchdowns. In the last four games, Bourne caught 17 of 18 targets from Jones.

Jones mistakes costly, result in failure to get into the end zone

So, why did the Pats have to rely on Nick Folk’s field goals so much during the Titans game on Sunday? For five drives in a row, the Patriots were unable to get a touchdown and had to settle for field goal after field goal. Many of those were due to Jones’ mistakes. He had a few overthrown passes in the end zone, including one very costly overthrown pass to Hunter Henry that would have no doubt resulted in an easy touchdown.

The Titans were able to run some blitzes on Jones. Titans Kevin Byard sacked Jones on a critical third down with a blitz up the middle and was able to force a rushed incomplete pass with another blitz off the edge. There was another moment where Jones nearly threw an interception. Just a moment later, he scrambled on third down but slid just short of the first down.

Jones is undoubtedly the best rookie quarterback in the league right now, but he is still a rookie. Some of those mistakes reminded us of that. There were also some factors at play during the Titans game. It gets cold and snowy in Foxborough, and it was quite so on Sunday. That’s his home now, so he’ll get used to it, but it could have played a part in his loose grip on the ball at least. It was a good thing the Pats have Nick Folk to rely on for field goals during those moments, but they’ll have to be able to win games without him, too. They have a tough matchup against the Bills on the road next week.