Five Thoughts On Mac Jones’ Performance In Patriots’ Win Over Bills

Jones attempted just three (!) passes in the 14-10 victory


Dec 6, 2021

Weather conditions Monday night in Buffalo were not conducive to passing the football. So the New England Patriots simply decided not to.

With temperatures in the low 30s and winds gusting from 25 to 50 mph, the Patriots employed one of the most run-heavy game plans in NFL history for their Monday night matchup with the Bills at Highmark Stadium.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted a grand total of three passes in the game, completing two for 19 yards. The three pass attempts were the lowest single-game total ever by a Patriots team and the second-lowest by any team since the AFL-NFL merger.

It was enough. Buoyed by a dominant rushing attack and a stout defense, the Patriots won 14-10 to improve to 9-4 on the season and keep their place atop the AFC standings. New England now has won seven straight as it heads into its Week 14 bye.

Here are five thoughts on Jones’ performance (or lack thereof) in this bizarre victory:

— The Patriots ran 24 offensive plays in the first half. Exactly one of those was a pass play.

Jones completed a 12-yard pass to Jonnu Smith late in the first quarter, with the tight end elevating to make a juggling grab:

Other than that, Jones handed the ball off. Then handed it off again. Then handed it off some more. The Patriots’ one first-half pass attempt was the fewest by any NFL team since at least 1978, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Though they had the wind at their backs in the second quarter, the Patriots relied almost exclusively on the run in the opening half, frequently deploying tighter, heavier formations and often using third tackle Mike Onwenu as a jumbo tight end. They racked up 149 first-half rushing yards (6.5 per carry), 64 of which came on a long Damien Harris touchdown run.

That score, a Brandon Bolden two-point conversion and a 41-yard Nick Folk field goal (into the wind, of course) gave the Patriots an 11-7 halftime lead.

New England’s 10 running plays to open the game also set a Bill Belichick-era franchise record.

— This trend didn’t change after halftime. Despite losing lead back Harris to a hamstring injury that limited him to one second-half carry, the Patriots didn’t attempt a single pass in the third quarter.

Their streak of consecutive runs reached 33 before Jones finally fired a rollout pass to Nelson Agholor with 6:51 remaining in the game. That pass was broken up. One play later, Jones completed a screen pass to Bolden that went for 7 yards on third-and-11.

The Patriots spent most of the second half feeding rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who finished with 78 yards on 24 carries. Harris led all rushers with 111 yards on 10 carries. The Patriots totaled a season-high 222 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 per attempt against a Bills defense that had to know what was coming on nearly every snap.

— Jones even got in on this ground-game action. During one prolonged third-quarter drive, the Patriots made the highly unusual decision to call a QB sneak on third-and-5. Jones picked up 4 yards on the play, then burrowed his way for a first down one play later. Folk capped the drive with a successful 36-yard field goal.

An early fumbled pitch by Harris also was officially credited as a Jones rushing attempt. He added two game-ending kneeldowns, giving him five total carries for -3 yards.

— The Bills weren’t nearly as conservative with their quarterback, Josh Allen.

With Buffalo’s running backs struggling to gain any yardage against New England’s stout front seven, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll gave his strong-armed QB plenty of passing opportunities. Allen went 15-for-30 for 145 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also was the Bills’ leading rusher, finishing with 39 yards on six carries.

Allen drove the Bills into the red zone as time wound down but had his final two passes — on third-and-14 and fourth-and-14 — broken up by defensive backs Adrian Phillips and Myles Bryant, respectively.

The Patriots and Bills will square off again at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 26.

— The previous record for fewest pass attempts in a Patriots game was five by Steve Grogan in the famous Snow Plow Game. New England won that 1982 contest 3-0 over the Miami Dolphins at Schaefer Stadium. The previous Belichick-era low was eight by Matt Cassel on a similarly blustery 2008 afternoon in Buffalo.

The Bills own the post-merger NFL record for fewest pass attempts, going 0-for-2 in a 1974 win over the New York Jets.

Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson
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