The New England Patriots lost their hold on the AFC East on Sunday thanks to a 33-21 home loss to the Buffalo Bills. While the entire team struggled, rookie quarterback Mac Jones had the worst game of his career. The man who led the Pats to seven wins in a row earlier this season, has regressed rapidly over the last few weeks.
On Sunday, Jones was flat-out awful. He completed 14 of 32 passes (43.8 percent) for 145 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He averaged a dismal 4.5 yards per attempt and finished with a career-low passer rating of 31.4.
Things have not gone well for Jones over the past three games. In that time, he has combined to complete 42 of 80 passes (52.5 percent) for 463 yards (5.79 yards per attempt), with two touchdowns and four interceptions. That calculates to a passer rating of 57.5, which is horrible. The Patriots have gone 1-2 during that stretch, with the one win coming in that ridiculous snow game at Buffalo.
That run of terrible play followed Jones' best effort of the season during a 36-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 12. In that victory he completed 23 of 32 passes for 319 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He made great decisions with the ball, was confident in his delivery and, afterwards, had pundits discussing if he should have been the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Those great decisions and confident deliveries have now gone out the window.
Jones simply doesn't have enough arm to throw into the tight windows he's tried to fit balls into over the past few weeks. He has essentially been a game manager this year with the hope of some upside in the future. When the Patriots fall behind and need to pass to catch up, opposing defenses are licking their chops. They pin their ears back, pressure the rookie and force him into bad throws. He's been obliging. On Sunday, New England trailed 17-7 at the half, and Jones was 5-for-13 for 47 yards and an interception.
If not for Damien Harris rushing for 103 yards and three touchdowns, the Bills would have blown the Patriots out. It's clear New England's best bet is to run the ball as much as possible and limit Jones' exposure. That may change in the future as he gets more experience under his belt, but for now he has regressed to the point where he's unreliable.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins left on the schedule, the Patriots are almost guaranteed to make the postseason. When they do, they'll have to lean heavily on their defense and running game.