Mac Jones, New England Patriots win with short passes, but eye downfield strikes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was a notable contrast from the New England Patriots' 25-6 win against the New York Jets on Sunday.

While the Jets want rookie quarterback Zach Wilson to learn that "it's OK to play a boring game of football," one of the questions asked to Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones was essentially why the passing offense was so boring by not throwing more down the field.

Jones handled it in stride by saying: "I think it was just me. I can push the ball down the field more. I can definitely hold the ball in a good way, just maybe move, and make a better throw down the field on a lot of plays."

Before diving into the specifics, the bottom line is most important: In the legendary words of longtime coach Herm Edwards, "You play to win the game." And Jones did that on Sunday, playing smart, protecting the football, and complementing a defense that totaled four interceptions -- a couple that were Wilson-wrapped gifts.

Jones finished 22-of-30 passing for 186 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. In a season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, which could have been a win if not for running back Damien Harris' costly late-game fumble, Jones was 29 of 39 for 281 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.

That makes Jones the first quarterback with a 70-plus completion percentage in each of his first two NFL starts (minimum 10 pass attempts).

Part of what has contributed to that is his willingness and discipline to take what's there, or in the words of Jets coach Robert Saleh, play a boring game of football.

Consider that Jones ranks 29th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks in air yards per attempt (5.3), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only Andy Dalton (Chicago Bears), Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons), Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) and Jacoby Brissett (Miami Dolphins) have fewer average air yards per attempt.

Furthermore, Jones has attempted seven passes on running back checkdowns. That is the second-most in the NFL behind Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (11), according to ESPN Route Metrics/NFL Next Gen Stats.

In many ways, what has unfolded is a Coaching 101 class in carefully bringing along a touted rookie who is learning on the job, instead of experiencing the benefits of learning behind the scenes for a year as the Kansas City Chiefs notably did with Patrick Mahomes in 2017.

But at some point, and that might come as soon as the next two weeks with the New Orleans Saints (1 p.m. ET Sunday, Fox) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers visiting Gillette Stadium, the Jones-led Patriots offense will need to show it can create more stress for defenses down the field.

That was noted by Jones after Sunday's game.

"For the receivers, they played well and I need to get them the ball more. And I will. We'll get the ball out and let them make plays, because we have good skill players," he said. "I can definitely stick to my reads better, and I think it starts with me."

Teammates, however, want to ensure that Jones doesn't change his approach to appease an external narrative. In fact, staying true to himself is part of what has endeared him to them over the past five months.

"Mac's been consistent on just Mac being Mac," said safety and longtime captain Devin McCourty. "He's not trying to do too much. He's not trying to be somebody that's created by the media. He just comes in and does his job and I thought he did a great job of that [Sunday]."