Great day for Brady and past, but Jones needs better present
He left the stage to his music and ran down the sideline, and pumped his arm, just like always.
“It’s impossible for me to be in this stadium … and not run out like I did for 20 years,” Tom Brady said during has Thank You Tom halftime ceremony.
It was a great job by the Patriots, from having him wave to the fans from atop the spanking new lighthouse that we all may take to Mars someday, to the announcement (as we said) that he’ll be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame next summer with a ceremony in Gillette Stadium.
Brady said all the right things in front of a number of his former teammates who stood in front of the stage. It was a stretch of about 15 minutes when Patriot fans could not only celebrate but also live in the past.
The present? Well, not much celebrating there after a 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It would have been a great story for current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who put up numbers he never would have last year in the Matt Patricia Reign of Error, setting a career high in pass attempts (54) while completing 35 passes for 316 yards and three TDs.
But, as he’ll be the first to tell you, he needed that fourth. Down five with 3:28 to play, the Patriots had the ball first and 10 on the Eagle 41 after Jabrill Peppers knocked the ball out of Eagle QB Jalen Hurts’ grasp with a great hit.
A sack. A silly delay of game penalty. Zippo.
Then the Eagles foolishly didn’t punt fourth and 2 from the Patriot 44, with a chance to make Jones work the length of the field and didn’t make it.
Jones had a second chance, 56 yards away from getting his first real comeback drive to victory. He got the ball down to the Eagle 20, but rookie Kayshon Boutte – seen later in the locker room staring at his locker for a bit – failed to drag his foot on a catch and was out of bounds incomplete (a reversed call on replay) at the Eagle 8 on fourth down with 25 ticks left.
Jones was 0-for-2, and there obviously would be no third chance. He had a chance to do what Brady always did, on Brady Day, but no go.
“I felt I left the team down,” Jones said over and over. “They gave me the ball to win the game and I didn’t do it.”
That’s what good quarterbacks in the NFL do. They lead their team down the field to a win in crunch time. Jones says he’s done it, but he certainly hasn’t done it here.
“I definitely can do it,” he said. “I know I can do it, I’ve done it before. … I do think I have the ability to make all the throws…I just have to do it at the right time.”
There you go. Mac Jones does get it, that’s not the issue. And he knows he can’t start a game the way he did in that first quarter, tossing a pick six, when the Patriots offense took us all back a year to 2022 while Patricia was up atop the 300 section in the Eagles coaches booth.
That he and the rest of the offense recovered from that was a great sign. But Jones just couldn’t finish the job.
He has his favorites as well as supporters on the locker room. His top two targets of two years ago are now back to being that this year as Hunter Henry (5 for 56, a TD) and Kendrick Bourne (6 for 64, two TDs) showed.
“I’ll go to battle with No. 10 any day of the week,” Henry said. “I love competing with that guy every single day.”
This is a big year for Jones, Year three. The Patriots defense can play like it did yesterday, stopping Philly from any long TD drives. Special teams show improvement. But until Jones can prove he can direct a win, it may be interesting come the end of the year, the time when the team starts to decide if it will pick up a player’s fifth-year option.
The best part of the day for Patriot fans came when Brady told the crowd “One thing I’m sure of, that will never change,” he said, “I am a Patriot for life.”
Jones will settle for five years and beyond. But he needs to win.
Tom King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @Telegraph _TomK.