FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots lost their season opener to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. But it’s clear they found a quarterback they can rely on.
Rookie Mac Jones turned in a promising performance in his first NFL start, shaking off an early mental lapse to complete 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown with no turnovers in New England’s 17-16 loss to Miami at Gillette Stadium.
Jones wasn’t one for positivity in his postgame news conference, however.
“I think we can get better,” the first-round draft pick said. “That’s just how we have to look at it. It definitely wasn’t good enough, starting with me. So we’ve got to watch the film. We lost, so it’s not good enough.”
The Dolphins’ aggressive, blitz-happy defense sacked Jones just once but hit him nine times and pressured him throughout the game. Jones, who said he wasn’t surprised by anything the Dolphins threw at him, blamed himself for some of those licks.
“My body feels good, but it wasn’t good enough, and we’ve got to just come back tomorrow and get ready to work,” he said. “The shots I took, some of them were my fault. I need to get the ball out quicker, and that’s part of football. You have to expect to get hit. Our offensive line played good, and they’re going to get better, and we’re going to work together because it takes all of us. They’re a great group of guys, but I think we can definitely improve on our communication, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Patriots were shorthanded up front for much of the game. Starting right tackle Trent Brown exited with a calf injury after the first series and was replaced by Justin Herron, who struggled and later was benched for Patriots debutante Yasir Durant.
Outside of one early hiccup — a failed throwaway on his first dropback that resulted in a fumble and a 13-yard loss — Miami’s pressure didn’t seem to fluster Jones. He completed a number of passes while being hit, including his touchdown to Nelson Agholor and a clutch third-down conversion to Jakobi Meyers.
Agholor, who led all Patriots pass-catchers with 72 yards on five catches, praised Jones for his poise — a common refrain among the young QB’s teammates.
“I think he’s a guy that loves the game of football, and I think he’s very resilient,” the wideout said. “He stays in the game and he plays hard. I think he’s just going to continue to get better.”
Jones’ 74 percent completion rate was the best ever by a player with at least 30 pass attempts in his first career start, according to Stathead data shared by the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels.
“It’s not really about me,” Jones said. “My job is to be the quarterback, and that’s to either hand the ball off or throw it. I can do a better job, and everyone else, I thought they played hard, but we can play even harder. We’re just going to go up from here.”
Poor situational football and a lack of discipline doomed the Patriots in their season-opening loss. They went 11-for-16 on third down but just 1-for-4 in the red zone, and none of their three 14-play drives produced touchdowns. They also were penalized eight times for 84 yards and lost two of their four fumbles, including one by Damien Harris in the red zone with less than four minutes remaining.
“I think being the quarterback, I need to do a better job (of) 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.”
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