Two things can be true about the Patriots’ unenviable quarterback situation:

1. Mac Jones certainly does not look like the team’s long-term answer at the game’s most important position.

2. Jones is, unfortunately for this going-nowhere New England squad, the best option it’s got.

Jones did enough to keep his job Sunday in Las Vegas, committing just one egregious turnover rather than several and leading two second-half touchdown drives as New England fell to the Raiders 21-17 at Allegiant Stadium. His final passing line: 24 of 33, 200 yards, no touchdowns, one interception.

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“I’m confident,” Jones told reporters after the game when asked about his job security. “I think that comes from years of experience and earning respect from people, and I think I’ve done that. But I’m trying to win every game I play in, and I’m not doing it. So I just really want to focus on, ‘How can I bring these guys with me? How can we clean up the little things?’

“It takes all 11, and that’s important. And to be the leader of that 11 is a lot of stress, but that’s why I play this game. I really want to win, and I’m doing a lot of things to do that during the week. But for whatever reason, it’s just not happening on Sunday.”

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Indeed. The Patriots now sit at 1-5 for the first time since 1995. They haven’t scored more than 20 points in any game this season. They finally snapped a drought of nearly 200 minutes of game time without a touchdown. Jones has zero touchdowns and seven interceptions over his last three games, and he came up empty on his latest chance to lead a game-winning drive — something he hasn’t done since 2021.

But this late-game failure was not on him. The Patriots’ ill-fated final drive featured a holding penalty by rookie guard Atonio Mafi, a perfectly placed deep ball that clanged off DeVante Parker’s hands and Maxx Crosby breezing past Mike Gesicki (regarded as one of the NFL’s worst blocking tight ends) and Vederian Lowe (maybe the league’s worst right tackle) for a game-clinching safety.

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Jones is not capable of succeeding without a strong supporting cast, and the collection of talent around him this season — especially along the O-line and at wide receiver — is decidedly subpar. (This team really could use somebody like Jakobi Meyers, who had five catches for 61 yards and the Raiders’ lone touchdown.)

It’s also clear that the Patriots don’t believe they have an upgrade on their roster. Bailey Zappe, who struggled after Jones was benched in Weeks 4 and 5, was demoted to emergency third string on Sunday. Will Grier, whom multiple outlets reported could be elevated to the top backup spot against Las Vegas, watched the game in street clothes as a healthy scratch.

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Jones’ primary understudy on Sunday was undrafted rookie Malik Cunningham, who isn’t even a full-time quarterback. The athletic Louisville product split his limited snaps against the Raiders between QB and receiver and did nothing of note, handing off once and taking a sack on his lone dropback.

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The Patriots had to have some level of faith in Cunningham to even put him in that position — per NFL rules, he, not Zappe, would have been their only choice at QB if Jones was benched or injured — but it’s very difficult to envision them handing him the keys to their offense based on what he’s shown thus far.

Even Bill Belichick, who praised Cunningham this week for the substantial improvement he showed ahead of his promotion to the 53-man roster, couldn’t find a compliment stronger than “competent” to describe how the rookie looked as a quarterback in practice.

The Patriots absolutely should continue to mix Cunningham in as a Taysom Hill-esque change-of-pace weapon moving forward. But him leapfrogging Jones at any point in the near future would be a major surprise.

Inspiring? Far from it. Depressing? Definitely. But that’s where the Patriots are: saddled with a talent-deficient roster, a lackluster QB and no upgrade in sight.

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Featured image via Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports Images