ARLINGTON, Texas — The Patriots’ most lopsided loss of the Bill Belichick era featured arguably the worst performance of Mac Jones’ career.

New England’s third-year quarterback committed multiple devastating errors in Sunday’s 38-3 shellacking at AT&T Stadium, including a pair of turnovers that directly resulted in Cowboys touchdowns.

Jones showed poor awareness and ball security on a lost second-quarter fumble that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch returned for a touchdown, then tried to force an ill-advised pass just before halftime that DaRon Bland turned into a 54-yard pick-six.

Bland intercepted another Jones pass during the third quarter. Jones remained in the game for one additional drive — a three-and-out — then was replaced by second-year backup Bailey Zappe with New England trailing 31-3.

Story continues below advertisement

His final line: 12-for-21, 150 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 39.9 passer rating that was his third-worst as a pro.

Though head coach Bill Belichick denied benching Jones for poor performance and said the 25-year-old would not lose his starting job, Jones was appropriately hard on himself after the game, saying he “let (his) team down.”

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

The longest-tenured member of that team hopes that disappointment doesn’t linger. Longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater shared a message for New England’s embattled signal-caller after this latest humbling defeat.

“Hit the reset,” Slater told “Hit the reset, move forward. You’ve got to flush it. Bury the ball. Move forward. Screw it. You can’t let this define who you are, and you’ve got to move forward.”

Story continues below advertisement

Those words don’t just apply to Jones, who was far from the Patriots’ biggest problem in the three previous games.

“That’s for everybody,” Slater said. “It’s not just him. It’s the entire football team. We’ve got to flush this one, and we’ve got to get ready. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got 13 football games left. If we feel sorry for ourselves, it’s going to be a long season.”

Slater, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Patriots’ championship-winning heyday, struggled to explain why mediocre-or-worse outings have become the norm for New England.

No Matchup Found

Click here to enter a different Sportradar ID.

Story continues below advertisement

Though the Patriots rarely are routed the way they were Sunday, they’re below .500 since Tom Brady’s 2020 departure, and nearly all of their recent wins came against bad or backup quarterbacks. Three of their nine since the start of last season were against Zach Wilson, and the others were over Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff, Jacoby Brissett, Sam Ehlinger, Colt McCoy and Teddy Bridgewater/Skylar Thompson.

“Winning doesn’t just happen on game day,” Slater said. “I think for us, it’s a seven-day-a-week approach, and obviously, we haven’t done enough to win consistently over that seven-day-a-week approach. So, we’ve got to start by how we approach tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday, and hopefully all those things can culminate and we play good football on game day.”

Is it a preparation issue? Poor focus in practice?

“Stuff like this, whatever the score was today, it didn’t just happen today,” Slater replied. “I believe that. Whatever you want to call it, I don’t know. But there’s certainly some things we can improve upon throughout the week of preparation.”

Story continues below advertisement

The Patriots now sit at 1-3 for the third consecutive season. The good news: They have back-to-back winnable games against the Saints and Las Vegas Raiders up next on their schedule. But if they and their QB can’t “flush” Sunday’s butt-kicking and quickly rebound, this season could quickly spiral out of control.

Featured image via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images