Patriots vs. Cowboys thumbs up, thumbs down: Mac Jones can't finish the job


FOXBOROUGH – You're reading the fourth version of this opening paragraph because in the midst of the final quarter-plus of play Sunday evening at Gillette Stadium Mac Jones led the Patriots on a comeback drive, seemingly gave the game away on a pick-6 touchdown to Cowboys playmaker Trevon Diggs and then came back again to beat Diggs on a 75-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne to take the 29-26 lead with just over two minutes to play.

Dallas then tied the game and sent it to overtime on Greg Zuerlein's 49-yard field goal with 20 seconds to play. After New England punted on its overtime-opening drive, Dallas drove 80 yards on seven plays to a Dak Prescott-to-CeeDee Lamb 35-yard touchdown for the 35-29 road win.

It was an incredible game, but it was also the Patriots' fourth loss of the season in Foxborough as New England fell to 2-4 on the season.

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Before rewatching this madness and then turning the page to next Sunday’s hosting of the hapless Jets in Foxborough, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the tough loss to Dallas:

Thumbs up

Mac Jones – The rookie QB has his critics, but he continues to impress overall. Sunday brought a new chapter in his development and budding reputation. Jones completed all seven passes he threw in the first half, including a pretty 20-yard touchdown to Hunter Henry, for a perfect 158.3 rating and a 14-10 lead over the Cowboys at the break. After taking a huge hit on a strip sack in the second quarter, the Patriots seemed to become quite cautious on offense. Jones then seemingly gave the game away with a late interception intended for Bourne over the middle, but redeemed himself on the first play of the ensuing drive. Unfortunately he and the offense were forced to punt to open overtime on the way to the loss. Jones finished completing 15 of 21 passes for 229 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the gut-wrenching loss.

Damien Harris/Rhamondre Stevenson – After dealing with a rib injury last week that included him reportedly staying behind in Houston for a bit, Harris got off to a great start against Dallas. New England’s clear No.
1 back rumbled for 21 yards on the first offensive snap and then capped the quick opening drive with a 4-yard touchdown out of the Wildcat. He then got things rolling again late with a 21-yard run in the fourth quarter. Harris chipped in as a complementary contributor with 18 carries for 101 yards and the score.
Stevenson saw his most playing time and touches, continuing to work his way out of the fumble-induced dog house. He gave the Patriots the lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run, the first of his career. He ran and caught the ball well, rushing five times for 23 yards while catching three passes for another 39 yards.

Run Defense – New England’s No. 15 run defense has had its issues at times this season. But the unit was up to the task early against Dallas’ impressive line and Ezekiel Elliott, who had 12 carries for a mere 33 yards at halftime for a Cowboys No.2 ranked rushing attack that had averaged over 200 yards on the ground the last three weeks. Elliott, had a 21-yard run in the fourth quarter and got a little bit going on the ground late. But it was still a solid performance for the Patriots Run D as the Cowboys ran it 31 times for just 122 yards (3.9 avg.) overall.

Hunter Henry – One of New England’s big-money offseason additions, Henry seems to be developing a nice rapport with Jones as he found the end zone for the third straight week. Henry’s 20-yard touchdown gave New England a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. Henry finished with just two catches for 25 yards and the one score, but in a game where points weren’t too easy to come by his touchdown was an important play early on.

Thumbs down

Joejuan Williams – The summary of the third-year former second-round pick's last three weeks is as follows: healthy scratch against the pass-happy Bucs, benched after giving up a long flea-flicker touchdown in Houston and a healthy scratch against the high-powered Cowboys passing attack. Making Williams’ spot on the inactive list worse against Dallas was the fact that both Jonathan Jones (ankle) and Jalen Mills (hamstring) were limited in practice this week, meaning have the bigger corner active could be a theoretical insurance policy. Nope, Williams' role on the Patriots defense – and maybe even roster spot -- is seemingly hanging by a thread based on the last few weeks.

Yodny Cajuste – Even with Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu active, New England stuck with its starting lineup of primarily backups. That included Cajuste making his second career start in as many weeks. Things got ugly in the second quarter when Cajuste was beaten badly by Randy Gregory, who put an hellacious hit on Mac Jones to force a fumble. Jones has been hit too often all year, but Gregory’s was the kind that usually leads to injury. Can’t happen.

Punt team – For the second time this season, New England had a punt blocked. This time, Cowboys rusher Luke Gifford burst through the left side of the Patriots line – seemingly beating Jahlani Tavai – and past an out of position personal protector Cody Davis on the way to Jake Bailey’s punt in the second quarter. Dallas recovered at the Patriots 17-yard line but were turned away from a touchdown when replay overturned a Dak Prescott 1-yard score, saying he fumbled before breaking the plane. Tavai was not on the field for the Patriots punt team in the third quarter, but the block was another in a long line of less-than-ideal plays for the New England kicking game this season.