Patriots vs. Colts thumbs up, thumbs down: Mac Jones throws it all away


While Patriots' fans showed up in full force for Sunday’s game in Germany against the Colts, the same could not be said for Bill Belichick’s team that fell to 2-8 on the season with the uninspired 10-6 loss.

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Mac Jones' inexcusable interception at the goal line in the closing minutes killed most chances the Patriots had at a comeback and added another layer to the frustrating season for the quarterback and his team. Jones was relegated to the bench for the closing minutes as New England put forth a relegation-worthy performance in front of fans used to low-scoring futbol matches of a different sort.

The two teams played an ugly, punt-filled first half that saw Indianapolis take the 7-3 lead into halftime, as neither team was able to do much after opening scoring drives in the first quarter.

The second half didn’t offer up much more entertainment for fans or production from the teams that struggled to make many plays on offense, the squads trading field goals and punts for much of the action.

Before turning the page to the bye week, here’s a look at the limited highs and embarassing international lows from the Patriots efforts in Frankfurt.

Thumbs up

Rhamondre Stevenson/Ezekiel Elliott – The bulk of the Patriots’ offensive production on a game-opening drive to a field goal came from its backfield. In marching to a Chad Ryland kick, Stevenson had four carries for 15 yards as well as one catch for 2 yards. Elliott was even better, running three times for 19 yards and adding a 19-yard catch-and-run. Unfortunately that 61-yard march to the field goal was pretty much the only offense for New England in the first 30 minutes. The duo then got things going a bit again in the second half, Stevenson finishing the day with 20 carries for 88 yards running as hard and as well as he has all season. Elliott also chipped in with 13 carries for 54 yards as the Patriots had a season-high 167 yards rushing as a team.

Bryce Baringer – New England’s rookie punter is also one of the team’s most consistently capable players. He’s grown more productive in the third phase seemingly by the week. He finished his day in Frankfurt with four punts for an 62.5-yard average with a pair iside the 20 and one 79-yard bomb that unfortunately rolled into the end zone for a touchback.

Jahlani Tavai – The veteran linebacker has become one of New England’s most reliable players. He’s also found a knack or big plays in recent weeks, as was the case with is pass deflection of a Gardner Minshew throw that resulted in a Myles Bryant interception on Indy’s first drive of the second half in Germany. Tavai did have a penalty for a helmet hit to a defenseless receiver, but his play has been a net positive most of the season as it was on Sunday when he finished with 7 tackles, second most on his team.

Thumbs down

Mac Jones – The nightmare season continued for Jones. Showing poor decision making at times once again, things bottomed out for the third-year quarterback when he tried to lob a late would-be go-ahead touchdown to an open Mike Gesicki in the end zone only to see the pass come up way short for an interception for Colts safety Julian Blackmon. It was Jones’ NFL-worst 10th interception of the season. It led to Bailey Zappe replacing Jones on offense when New England got the ball back with less than two minutes to play. It was the third time Jones was benched this season and another step toward the end of his career in New England. Jones finished completing 15 of 20 passes for 170 yards with no touchdowns and what felt like the game/career-ending interception.

Pass protection – The offensive line has been an issue back to the summer. That continued in Germany. Jones was sacked on each of the first three possessions of the game against Indy, all by Colts’ end Dayo Odeyingbo, doubling his total for the season. The fourth New England drive was ended when Tyquan Lewis got into the sack fun on Jones to force a punt. The fifth straight drive of the first half ended with a sack for Kwity Paye when Jones tried to scramble for a first down. Jones played a role in the sacks by holding onto the ball and the line played a role by not winning their blocks. This was a team effort in Patriots pass protection breakdown.

Third down offense – For the second straight week the Patriots offense struggled mightily on third down. New England, thanks to the sacks, was just 2-of-7 in the first half on third down in Germany, this a week after the Patriots were 3-of-12 a week earlier in a loss to Washington. This time around New England finished the loss 6-of-14 on third down with some late success. But third down was a big part of the reason for offensive cooinator Bill O’Brien’s immense visible displeasure on the sidelines as the struggles in the key down continued.

Special teams coaching – For some reason the Patriots chose to not only go for a punt block with ending kicking out of its end zone in the second quarter but did so with no returner back deep for the return. New England’s rush didn’t get the job done and saw Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez get off a 69-yard boot that benefited from nearly 20 yards on the bounce with no New England player in sight. For a team that struggles so much on offense to give up so many so-called “hidden yards” is yet another example of things just not looking right or going as planned for the Patriots this season. Whether it was Joe Judge, Cam Achord or Belichick himself who called for the block with no returner, it was a terrible decision.

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