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New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s late-game strategy shows limits to confidence in Mac Jones

Bill Belichick chose a 56-yard field goal over fourth and 3 late in the game -- does he lack trust in New England Patriots QB Mac Jones?

FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had more confidence in Nick Folk making a game-winning, 56-yard kick in the rain than Mac Jones picking up a fourth and 3.

There’s no other way to interpret Belichick’s decision to send out Folk for an at-best 50-50 kick rather than let his rookie quarterback try to extend the Patriots’ final drive and make Folk’s job a little easier.

Do the Patriots fully trust Mac Jones?

Belichick’s decision backfired when Folk clanked his attempt off the left upright, handing the Patriots their third loss in four games. Final score Sunday: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, New England Patriots 17.

When asked Sunday if he had given any consideration to going for it on fourth down instead of attempting the low-percentage kick, Belichick responded:

“I mean, not really.”

If that was indeed the case, it shows limits to the team’s confidence in Jones — the first-round pick had a solid bounce-back game after two poor outings. Jones completed 31 of 40 passes for 275 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. His arm accounted for all but 19 yards of the Patriots’ total offense Sunday. It’s a bit puzzling that, after all of that good work, his coach still would have rather had Folk try to win it from long distance.

Was the decision more for Folk than fading Jones?

Some important context: Folk told the coaching staff that he felt confident kicking from that distance in that direction. And he was 100% confident when he went out to try it.

“Yeah, I mean, we get a lot of those conditions at practice, so we work on it all the time,” Folk said. “I think I made 58 pregame going that way, so it was 56 and I told myself, ‘hit the same ball.’ Had a slight draw to it today.”

Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop, meanwhile, made his go-ahead attempt the series before, but his was from a more manageable 48 yards.

“I told him I was so proud of him after the game,” Succop said. “He hit a great ball, it just didn’t happen to go in. I know next week he’s going to come back. He’s going to help them win a lot of games. I have so much respect for Nick, he’s a great kicker, a great person. We are always talking, he has four kids and we have three, we have a connection there. Our wife’s stay in touch through social media, and kind of encourage one another.”

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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