FOXBORO, Mass. — For the second time in three weeks, Mac Jones and the New England Patriots fell just short of a signature victory.
The underdog Patriots lost to the visiting Dallas Cowboys 35-29 in overtime Sunday, dropping them to 2-4 on the season. Here are six thoughts on Jones’ performance in the loss:
— The final few minutes of regulation were pure insanity.
First, Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a 51-yard field goal that would have put his team ahead with 2:47 remaining. Then, Jones, needing one first down to run out the clock, had a high pass bounce of receiver Kendrick Bourne’s hands and into the mitts of former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs, who returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.
Then, Jones and Bourne atoned for their miscue by connecting on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the very next play, with Diggs in coverage.
But Dallas responded. Dak Prescott converted a fourth-and-4 and completed a 24-yard pass on third-and-25 to move the Cowboys into field-goal range, and Zuerlein booted one through from 49 yards to send the game to overtime.
— Jones and Nelson Agholor have yet to develop the type of connection the young QB has with fellow wideouts Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, and that showed on the opening drive of overtime. Jones’ first pass was on the money to Agholor, but the receiver dropped it. After a highlight-reel completion to Meyers moved the chains, Jones tried to hit Agholor on a back-shoulder comeback on third-and-3, but the two weren’t in sync. (Officials also appeared to miss a facemask penalty on cornerback Anthony Brown.)
The Patriots were forced to punt. Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for a game-winning 35-yard touchdown the following drive.
Agholor finished with one catch on three targets for 27 yards. He hasn’t tallied more than 55 receiving yards or caught more than three passes in a game since Week 1.
— Jones was perfect in the first half, going 7-for-7 for an even 100 yards, one touchdown and a 153.8 passer rating. The Patriots chose to attack the Cowboys’ defense with a barrage of heavy personnel packages in the opening 20 minutes, so most of Jones’ early completions went to running backs and tight ends, including his 20-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.
It was the third touchdown reception in as many games for the veteran tight end.
Jones did hit wide receiver Agholor for a 27-yard gain during the second quarter. He also threw a touchdown pass to wideout Meyers that was wiped out by a penalty.
The Patriots found the end zone on their first two possessions, with running back Damien Harris scoring the first on a Wildcat keeper.
— New England’s offensive momentum halted on the fifth snap of its third drive — one play after Meyers’ would-be touchdown was called back.
On second-and-17, Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory shot past right tackle Yodny Cajuste and decked Jones with a Richter-scale hit that jarred the ball loose. Dallas recovered and kicked a field goal on the ensuing drive.
On their next series, the Patriots benched Cajuste and left tackle Justin Herron and inserted Mike Onwenu (right) and Isaiah Wynn (left), who came off the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. They also shifted their personnel approach, using three wide receivers on three straight plays after doing so just once on their first five possessions. They went three-and-out and had their punt blocked.
Their next drive: a running play and two kneeldowns to close out the first half. The one after that: a three-and-out, with Gregory overpowering Wynn for a third-down sack.
That sack sent Wynn — who missed two full weeks of practice while on the COVID list — back to the bench. Herron reentered the following series and played the rest of the game.
— The Patriots struggled to stage prolonged drives for much of the game. Their first eight all lasted five plays or fewer. Why? Because they initially scored quickly, then couldn’t convert on third down. The Patriots went 0-for-5 on third down to begin the game, their first conversion not coming until four minutes into the fourth quarter.
New England finally found some third-down success in that final frame, converting three on a 16-play, 75-yard march that culminated in a 1-yard Rhamondre Stevenson touchdown run. Those conversions included an 11-yard strike from Jones to Meyers on third-and-9, with the wideout hanging on through heavy contact.
— This was Jones’ lightest workload as a pro. He attempted just 21 passes in the game, completing 15 for 221 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.