FOXBORO, Mass. — Kendrick Bourne stated the obvious after Thursday night’s loss: The Patriots aren’t doing a good enough job protecting Mac Jones.
The New England wide receiver Kendrick Bourne called out his team’s injury-depleted offensive line after Jones frequently was pressured in a 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.
“We’ve got to get the ball downfield, so I think Mac needs more time,” Bourne said. “He’s obviously running around. It’s hard to get the ball downfield when you can’t really have time for him to throw. No knock to the line, it’s just what we need to work on. The receivers can’t do nothing if the ball can’t get downfield, and if we can’t throw it past 5 yards, it’s going to be a long game.”
With Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste inactive due to injury and Marcus Cannon on injured reserve, the Patriots were extremely thin at offensive tackle Thursday night. Their starting right tackle was Conor McDermott, whom they signed off the New York Jets’ practice squad nine days earlier. Trent Brown started at his usual left tackle spot, but he clearly was not at full strength. He was a late addition to the Patriots’ injury report with an illness, did not participate in pregame warmups and looked visibly unwell in the locker room after the game.
The Bills only sacked Jones once and landed four official quarterback hits, but their frequent pressure — generated without star pass rusher Von Miller, who was placed on IR before the game — hamstrung the Patriots’ offense. More than half of Jones’ 22 completions were to targets within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage or behind it, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Jones finished with 195 passing yards — nearly 200 fewer than he recorded in last week’s 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings — and 48 of them came on a screen-pass touchdown to triple-threat rookie cornerback Marcus Jones. The Patriots went 3-for-12 on third down and went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions.
Brown, McDermott, left guard Cole Strange and center David Andrews all were called for holding penalties, and Jones was flagged for intentional grounding while a free Buffalo rusher bore down on him.
“Shoutout to the Bills,” Bourne said. “They did a great job controlling the clock, keeping us off the field, keeping us kind of cold and stagnant. It was a great game plan they had, and we’ve just got to be able to get the ball downfield. We have plays, but we can’t get to them. We’re calling them, but they’re not working. We’re throwing 5-yard routes, and that’s what we catch, so it looks one way. But hopefully we can get Mac more time so he can make the plays.”
He added: “We’ve got plenty of players. We’ve got every tool to be great. On the line, too. It’s just about playing harder. We have to play harder. We have to want it more. That’s what I would say as a group, for everyone.”
Bourne, whose own production has plummeted this season after a breakout 2021 campaign, also said the Patriots “need to scheme up better” on third down, which has been a problem area for the team of late. New England entered Thursday ranked 25th in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage and now has gone 6-for-22 (27.3%) over the last two games.
Now sitting at 6-6, the Patriots will visit the Arizona Cardinals next week on “Monday Night Football.” Cannon will be eligible to return from IR this week if he is healthy enough to do so.