FOXBORO, Mass. — In a must-win game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones made a concerted effort to get the ball to Tyquan Thornton.
It not only led to a season-high seven targets for the rookie wideout, but also allowed Thornton to have his best game since being drafted the Patriots and be a key factor in a 23-21 victory at Gillette Stadium.
Thornton recorded three receptions for a career-high 60 yards and one touchdown, which left Jones praising his teammate’s growth during an up-and-down first season in the NFL.
“I think he’s a really good route runner, really good, fast, smart kid. Works hard. Doesn’t complain about anything,” Jones said. “Just goes out there and does what he’s supposed to do. We have a lot of guys like that on our team. Just excited to grow with him. He’s a young player. I’m a young player. We’re working every day to get that chemistry.”
The work finally paid off in Week 17 after Thornton caught just two passes combined over the last two weeks. He also had a drop in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals he wanted to make up for.
Jones looked Thornton’s way from New England’s opening drive, hitting the 2022 second-round pick for a 24-yard reception on the Patriots’ fifth offensive play of the game. Thornton just got both feet down in bounds along the sideline on the deep grab, and the ruling stood after a Dolphins challenge.
The next time Jones connected with Thornton on the same series, the pass went for a 7-yard touchdown to help the Patriots play from in front.
Jones said Thornton, who is known for blazing speed, has been receptive to any changes the signal-caller wants him to make, and Thornton isn’t afraid to voice his opinion, as well.
It’s led to two young and important pieces of the offense forming a solid rapport that they are starting to showcase at the most critical point in the season.
“He’s done a great job,” Jones said. “Definitely we’re going to watch the film together. I always like to tell him things to work on, same thing with him. He’s very comfortable about telling me, ‘Hey, put it here, put it there, let’s try this, try that.’
“As a young player, definitely impressed with him. His ability to communicate at a really high level during the games by telling me what he sees, too. Love our receivers and all those guys. They fight hard for each other, fight hard for the team. That’s what it’s all about.”