Is there a possibility, barring injury, that Mack Jones won’t be the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots for the final three games of the regular season?
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked that question on Wednesday. His answer?
“The plan is to try to beat Cincinnati,” Belichick said.
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The more pressing question may be whether New England can get off the mat against the Bengals on Saturday, with their playoff hopes dwindling after missing an opportunity to beat the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
“I think you just have to evaluate, like we always do every week, just evaluate what you can do better, whether it’s individual, team or offensive,” Jones said Wednesday. “We did that and obviously right now we’re just getting ready for Cincinnati, so it’s a normal week. Obviously, the energy was good, so that’s good. “
After Sunday’s game, New England running back Ramondre Stevenson laterally hit wide receiver Jacoby Myers on a rushing attempt as time expired in the fourth quarter. Myers tried to return the football to Jones. Las Vegas defensive end Chandler Jones caught it and steamrolled the Patriots QB on his way to the end zone. Instead of overtime, New England lost 30-24.
With three losses in four games, the Patriots’ record falls to 7-7. New England is one game behind in the AFC wild-card race with three to play. Another loss would likely end the Patriots’ postseason chances.
New England’s two remaining opponents — the Bengals and Buffalo Bills — have clinched AFC playoff berths and continue to earn conference first-round byes. The other opponent, the Miami Dolphins, is trying to maintain a postseason position.
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“You want to take on all the challenges, don’t you?” – said Mc Jones. “We are all competitors here. The biggest thing is to just stay where your feet are and focus on the present. It’s today and tomorrow is tomorrow, right? Then obviously when we get to the game you want to feel prepared as a player. You want to feel like you have the confidence to get out there and fight together, it just takes effort and grit. When you have those two things and then the basics and everything comes together.
“Coming into a game, you want to focus on the game and try and win, but you also don’t want to think about the results as just, ‘OK, here’s what I have to do. Come down here, make plays as hard as I can, compete and just show effort.’ That’s all you can ask for.”
The question of Jones’ status as a starter may have stemmed from the quarterback’s production in December, along with New England’s backcourt situation.
After posting a career-high 382 yards in three games in a 33-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 24, the former Alabama All-American completed 59-of-102 passes for 542 yards with one touchdown and one touchdown. An interception in a win over the Arizona Cardinals and losses to the Bills and Raiders.
“Just better execution, better consistency, better every way,” Belichick said when asked what was needed to get the Patriots’ passing attack going again. “I don’t think it’s one thing. …
“There are always things that everybody can improve on every week, so just point them out on film and try to fix them and move on. It’s players, coaches, all positions. It’s always like that.”
Jones had one of his best games last season in Week 12 as New England beat the Tennessee Titans 36-13, throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns while posting an efficiency rating of 128.1.
Jones’ passer rating has declined in all three straight games as the Patriots have gone 1-2.
Jones’ big game against Minnesota came in Week 12 of the season, and his passer rating has dropped in all three straight games as New England has gone 1-2.
Last year, Jones picked off three passes and posted a 128.1 rating in a 50-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“There’s a lot of things on offense, it’s 11 guys and you’ve got to try to push everybody as a quarterback to do the right thing and make sure we’re all on the same page,” Jones said. “We did that at times, but we just got that consistency, obviously, with ourselves as well. Just made sure of all my P’s and Q’s. Everyone needs to get on the next train. Everyone needs it. We work together, we communicate very well, which is important between players. At the end of the day, we have to go out there and compete with each other and play because we love the game, so disrespecting each other in our room is insulting. This is the most important part. “
The Patriots and Bengals will meet Saturday at noon CST at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
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Mark Inabinet is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @AMarkG1.