Mac Jones never has been among the more purey talented quarterbacks in the NFL. Instead, his greatest asset is supposed to be his mind — not unlike his rather famous Patriots predecessor.

And while it’s true Jones is a smart, intangibles-first quarterback, there’s no denying his decision-making has regressed since midway through his rookie campaign.

That trend continued Sunday when Jones put on a career-worst performance against the Dallas Cowboys. New England’s third-year quarterback threw for just 150 yards and committed three turnovers — two of which were returned for touchdowns — in the most lopsided loss of Bill Belichick’s career. Jones, whose confidence appeared shot, was benched for Bailey Zappe in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium.

Yet, Belichick on Monday morning defended Jones from an increasingly valid criticism.

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“Well, I mean, everything gets highlighted by one or two plays, one way or another,” Belichick said during a video call. “In general, I think he makes pretty good decisions. He sees things well. But obviously, as a team, we can’t win turning the ball over three times in a game, two for touchdowns.

“We’ve got to do a better job of that. That’s everybody’s responsibility. The quarterback’s part of it, so is everybody else.”

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Belichick’s defense of Jones is noteworthy, particularly when you compare it to how wishy-washy he was this time a year ago and at times during the offseason.

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The Patriots head coach said Jones will start next Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints and also indicated Zappe won’t see an uptick in meaningful practice reps this week. For now, there doesn’t appear to be a QB controversy in New England.

Perhaps Belichick simply knows he doesn’t have a better option, considering Zappe wasn’t good enough to avoid getting cut after training camp. Maybe he just didn’t want to pile on Jones ahead of what surely will be a difficult week for the 25-year-old. Or, perhaps Belichick now realizes that he and his roster building, not Jones, have put the Patriots in this position.

Regardless, it’s a clear tone shift for someone who not long ago struggled to say anything positive about Jones.

That said, Jones now has four interceptions on the season and 28 total picks over 35 carer games. If his decision-making doesn’t improve in a hurry, Belichick might be forced to make a franchise-altering call.

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Featured image via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images