FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — The scoreboard said New England lost. In the grand scheme of things, the Patriots won Sunday. Yes, they’re 0-1 after a 17-16 throwback game against the Miami Dolphins. But Mac Jones was the best quarterback on the field, making more plays than his Crimson Tide predecessor Tua Tagovailoa — in his very first NFL start.
That’s more valuable than any one regular-season game.
Mac Jones outperforms Tua Tagovailoa in Week 1 loss
In a showdown of Alabama’s last two quarterbacks, Jones outplayed Tua and showed a maturity and instincts that should alarm everyone in the AFC East.
Jones completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown Sunday. The Patriots converted a ridiculous 11 of 16 third downs.
Those numbers were good. His ability to handle a steady stream of Brian Flores blitzes was even more impressive.
“He didn’t really make any mistakes,” said Dolphins safety Jason McCourty, who might have robbed Jones of a touchdown with his great pass breakup on a deep ball to Jakobi Meyers. “He was poised, even watching him in the huddle, getting guys in, yelling, commanding. A lot of what he looked like in the preseason is how he came out and performed.
“He gave his team a chance to win,” McCourty continued. “He didn’t really make many mistakes, didn’t throw any errant passes, really. A poised, young guy. It was kind of fun to see him and Tua, obviously college teammates, being on opposite sidelines. It’s always a lot more fun when you come out with a win.”
Mac Jones shows leadership in postgame presser
That’s why Jones was having none of the praise being thrown his way postgame. But embedded in his understandable frustration — the Patriots only lost because they fumbled 4 times, including a backbreaker by Damien Harris in the red zone with less than four minutes left in the game — was a leadership and poise that bodes well for his future.
“I think being the quarterback, I need to do a better job, demanding better in practice,” Jones said. “Sometimes I just let things slide, myself included. That’s not good enough. So I’m going to try and be more vocal, and I am a vocal person, but it’s kind of a new situation, and I can be better. But it starts with me. The defense, I try and hype them up and stuff, and they played great. We’ve got to do better on offense. So we’ll do that.”
Jones is right. He can get better. Which is scary.
Even in a win, Tua Tagovailoa receives no praise from New England’s secondary
Jones already might be better than Tua, who nearly gave the game away with a horrid interception midway through the fourth quarter. His QBR as a rookie was 44.8. It was 40.1 Sunday.
The only thing about Tua’s game that surprised the Patriots? How long it took for them to pick him off.
“That’s what Tua do,” Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson said. “If he doesn’t have his first read, he’s just gonna throw the ball up.”
So yeah, when the losing defense is taking shots at the winning quarterback, it’s a weird game. The Patriots crushed the Dolphins in basically every stat except turnovers and defense in the red zone. Those will eventually even out. When these teams meet again in four months, Tua needs to be better. Because the Dolphins have to know that Jones (whose QBR was a robust 75.3) will be.
“I thought he did a really nice job,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “I thought he did a really nice job. Got the ball out, was able to kind of move their offense, pick up first downs, drive them down field. Yeah, I thought he did a very nice job.”