One common thread that’s connected the New England Patriots’ three defeats this season: Mac Jones winding up on the ground far too frequently.
The Patriots’ rookie quarterback took a total of seven hits in the team’s Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He absorbed 11 in a Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers battered him with a season-high 12, plus two more on plays that were negated by penalties.
Jones also was sacked four times in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win at Gillette Stadium.
If the Patriots hope to rebound from their lackluster 1-3 start to the season, they’ll need to do a better job of protecting their top 2021 draft pick.
Jones, though, struck a positive tone Monday when asked about the Patriots’ pass-protection issues during an appearance on WEEI’s “Merloni & Fauria.” He also blamed himself for some of the shots he took, saying he can be quicker on the trigger.
“I think it’s just part of the game,” Jones said. “Like backyard football, you’re going to get hit. That’s kind of the fun part of it. You just roll with the punches and get up. And a lot of the stuff — I always say this, and I’m not saying it just to say it, but I can do a better job of whether it’s moving or getting the ball out or just committing to the throw, whatever the throw may be. Just learning from those hits.
“The offensive line played well — actually, really good. Of course you’re going to get hit sometimes when a team’s going to pressure more, and you’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
Despite Jones’ optimism, O-line play has been a major issue for the Patriots this season. They’ve struggled to keep Jones upright and have been overwhelmed in the run game in recent weeks.
Against the Saints, the Patriots averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on 17 attempts. They were even less productive on the ground Sunday, becoming just the fourth team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to finish a game with negative rushing yards (-1 on eight carries).
The Patriots also have benched an offensive lineman in three of their four games this season. On Sunday night, it was left guard Mike Onwenu, who was replaced by Ted Karras after committing two holding penalties.
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