FOXBORO, Mass. — On multiple occasions this season, JuJu Smith-Schuster has defended Mac Jones despite the Patriots quarterback deserving harsh criticism.

After Sunday’s home loss to the Commanders, Jones returned the favor.

New England trailed Washington 20-17 with under a minute left and was approaching field-goal territory. Jones fired a second-and-8 pass for Smith-Schuster, who allowed the ball to bounce off of his hands and into the arms of Commanders cornerback Jartavius Martin. The play ended New England’s comeback attempt and dropped the Patriots to 2-7.

Smith-Schuster blamed himself for the costly mistake while speaking to reporters after the game. But Jones defended his much-maligned teammate while pointing toward Smith-Schuster’s fourth-down conversion two plays prior.

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“I think JuJu made a great play the play before or we wouldn’t even be in that situation,” Jones said during his postgame news conference. “I just went through my reads and fired it in there. It was just a bang-bang play. Obviously, when you lose the game, it’s frustrating. It’s not on one person or one player at all. Like I said, JuJu made some great plays. We’re all in it together. I can throw a better ball, protect him a little bit more, all that stuff. I’ll watch the film, like I said, see what I can do to fix my part.”

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Smith-Schuster’s critical mistake marked an unfortunate end to his most productive day since joining New England.

The 26-year-old caught six balls for 51 yards, both of which were season highs. He now has just 21 catches for 140 yards and one touchdown through nine disappointing weeks.

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Jones, Smith-Schuster and the rest of the Patriots will look to get back on track next Sunday when they play the Indianapolis Colts in Frankfurt, Germany.

Featured image via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images