FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (AP) — Throughout his first NFL season, Mac Jones was a walking billboard for “The Patriot Way” — keeping his head down, working hard, and trying to do only what’s asked of him to avoid self-inflicted mistakes .
It has brought successes such as leading all starting quarterbacks this season in wins (10), yards passing (3,801) and touchdown passes (22). Still, it hasn’t kept him completely immune to the ebbs and flows that inevitably happen to any rookie QB.
For Jones, that meant a 2-4 start, enjoying the spoils of a seven-game win and then three losses in New England’s final four games to finish the regular season.
It also saw him lead the Patriots back to the postseason for the first time since Tom Brady left after the 2019 season.
While Jones acknowledges that the stakes will be higher on Saturday when the Patriots travel to Buffalo for their wildcard matchup with the Bills, it’s a reminder for him to hold on to the blueprint that got him to this point.
“I think it’s about doing a little bit more, but you have to stick to what you know and you just have to prepare like you always have, no matter the situation,” Jones said.
Of the 19 rookie quarterbacks who have made the first round draft since 2013 (with a minimum of 10 starts), Jones is the first to finish the season with a winning record. Since the lone first-round rookie QB moved into the postseason in 2021, he also gets the chance to become the first rookie QB since Russell Wilson (third-round pick in 2012) to win a playoff game. He would be the first New England rookie quarterback to do so.
“He just keeps working on everything,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “I don’t think there’s one area where I could say, ‘Boy, that was the biggest area of growth or improvement.’ I think Mac takes in a lot of information…. Mac is a guy that if you give him five or six things to work on and tweak and improve on, he really takes all those things and tries his best with the practice time we have and what we have asked of him .
“So he keeps doing that.”
While Jones has been a model for the machine-like culture the Patriots have cultivated during Coach Bill Belichick’s two-decade tenure, Jones has also thrived thanks to the support he has received from his teammates.
From veterans to first-year fellow players, the Patriots have gathered around him since he defeated Cam Newton for the training camp runway.
Belichick praised Jones all season and complimented him on Wednesday, saying he was “consistent and did a good job for us all year.”
Even after the Patriots fell into a 14-0 hole in their Miami regular season finale and eventually lost 33-24, veteran Brandon Bolden said Jones’ response late in the game to rally the team was an example of how he has been attacking all year.
“A great footballer. He didn’t stop. He stayed in the game all the time,” said Bolden. “And coming from a young quarterback or a rookie quarterback, that’s what you like to see. And it’s easy to get up and play for such a man.”
Jones is no stranger to major podiums after winning a national championship in his last season in Alabama.
“It’s a different game, but there’s more at stake and you have to realize that,” Jones said. “There is not much room for error. That’s kind of what makes it fun. It’s more crowded. … You prepare well, you feel comfortable and then you start playing the game you have been playing since your little one.”
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