Patriots at Cowboys thumbs up, thumbs down: Mac Jones & Co. fall on their face

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Coming off their first win of the season and facing a Cowboys team that stumbled a week ago against the Cardinals, the Patriots headed to Dallas with hope. That hope didn’t last much beyond the opening drives at AT&T Stadium as the home team rolled to a 28-3 halftime advantage on the way to the Cowboys 38-3 victory.

Andy says Mac Jones' time as Patriots QB is limited

New England helped Dallas (3-1) build the big lead with Mac Jones fumbling into a scoop-and-score TD and then throwing a pick-6 interception, both in the second quarter. Bill Belichick not only failed to reach his 300th career regular season victory or get his team to .500 on the season, but faced the largest halftime deficit of his Hall of Fame coaching career according to FOX.

The loss drops the Patriots to 1-3 through four games, New England’s third straight year opening with that same lowly record. The performance also certainly ignites plenty of questions as to where the season is going and what Jones’ potential is as the franchise’s QB after he was benched in the third quarter.

Before turning the page to next Sunday’s battle with the Saints at Gillette Stadium, here’s a look at the few highs and many lows from this ugly loss in Dallas.

Thumbs up

Hunter Henry – Throws from Jones to Henry have been one of the few aspects of the Patriots’ offense that have been consistently effective this season. Even on a really ugly day for the offense in Dallas, the connection still made a few plays. Jones’ first throw of the day went to Henry for 14 yards, to start off a drive to an opening field goal. The veteran tight end finished the day as the only efficient Patriots playmaker with four catches on five targets for 51 yards, leading his team in all three categories.

Bryce Baringer – New England sixth-round rookie punter did his job in Dallas, something few of his teammates or coaches could claim. Baringer punted five times for an 45-yard average with one inside the 20.

Thumbs down

Mac Jones – The wheels fell off the New England offense in the first half in Dallas and Jones was at the wheel steering the disaster. He never felt Fowler chasing him for the fumble that led to a score. He threw late and back across the field multiple times, one of which was jumped by DaRon Bland for a 54-yard pick-6 in the second quarter. On the Patriots’ first drive of the second half, Jones threw another interception to Bland on a fourth-down attempt. Jones wasn’t making good decisions or throws all game. He borderline melted down in the first half against the Cowboys. He finished completing 12 of 21 throws with two interceptions and a fumble for a 39.9 rating before being pulled in favor of Bailey Zappe in the third quarter. Jones is far from the only problem on the offense, but he’s a big part of the problem right now. And that’s a problem for the short and long term status of the Patriots.

Mike Onwenu – Now back healthy and supposedly a guy to stabilize the line, Onwenu struggled with a trio of first-half penalties in Dallas. He had two false starts to back the Patriots up in the second quarter. Then he had a holding penalty to wipe out a rare positive Rhamondre Stevenson run that had picked up 12 yards. New England’s offense and offensive line have plenty of issues in general, they certainly don’t need any more with penalties and lost yards. Onwenu is supposed to be better than that.

Vederian Lowe – The veteran had settled into the right tackle spot in a victory last week, jumping over from filling in for Trent Brown at left tackle. But Lowe got beaten badly by Dante Fowler in the second quarter, chasing down Jones for the strip-sack that led to the Cowboys touchdown from Leighton Vander Esch. Lowe is the poster child in this one for an offensive line that lost the battle at the line of scrimmage more often than not.

Running game – A week ago the Cowboys allowed Arizona to run for 222 yards and a 7-yard average. But once again Stevenson was bottled up and the New England running game just never really got anything going on the ground. Stevenson picked up just 30 yards on 14 carries. In his return to Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott had just 16 yards on his six carries. It was a another bad day on the ground for the Patriots running backs and their offensive line, averaging just 2.3 yards per carry as a team.

Christian Gonzalez/CB health – The Patriots entered the season with questionable depth and talent at cornerback. The first-round pick won rookie of the month honors and helped stabilized the position even with Jack Jones and Marcus Jones both on IR and Jonathan Jones missing three games.
But Gonzalez left in the first quarter in Dallas with a shoulder injury. That left Myles Bryant to try to cover Cee Dee Lamb on the first snap after Gonzalez’ departure, and Dak Prescott immediately hit his star receiver for a 20-yard touchdown. The Patriots cornerback spot just doesn’t have capable, healthy bodies right now.

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