‘Not how I wanted it to go’: Mac Jones, other players disappointed after Patriots fall in debut

"I need to do a better job demanding better in practice."

Mac Jones
Mac Jones and Brandon King of the New England Patriots react after losing to the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The final question from the media for Mac Jones after his debut as the team’s starting quarterback was about Damien Harris, whose red zone fumble wound up dooming the Patriots to a 17-16 loss to the Dolphins.

Jones answered the question — and every other question — with a flat affect that left little room for interpretation: He was deeply disappointed in Sunday’s result.

“He’s a great dude, he’s going to work hard,” Jones said about Harris. “That’s what he does, and that’s what we’re all going to do. All right.”


The “all right” was immediate, a clear punctuation mark that provided finality to the press conference. Jones, who left the podium immediately and stalked out of the room, was done speaking.

Jones’s individual performance was solid. After a comically bad first throw that nearly handed the ball to the Dolphins, he settled in quickly and finished 29-for-39 as a passer with 281 yards and a touchdown. Jones dueled former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa (16-for-27, 202 yards) and helped the Patriots convert 11 of 16 opportunities on third down.

But a pair of fumbles hurt the Patriots. Harris’s was the most damaging late in the fourth quarter, particularly since the Patriots never got the ball back, but rookie Rhamondre Stevenson coughed up a costly one near midfield in the first half.

“I think we just can get better,” Jones said. “That’s just how we have to look at it. Definitely wasn’t good enough, starting with me. So we just have to watch the film. We lost, so it’s not good enough.”

Jones’s answers mirrored Belichick. The Patriots coach said very little about any player individually but harped on the need for team-wide improvements.

“Mac competed hard, I thought we had a lot of guys compete hard,” Belichick said, when asked about Jones specifically. “We just have to perform better as a team.”


“We have a great play caller, and we have to execute what he calls quickly, efficiently, and perfectly,” Jones added later.

Jones said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told him to enjoy his debut, because he won’t get another.

“But that’s not how I wanted it to go,” Jones said.

As Jones talked, he hammered the theme of improvement. He said the word “better” 14 times. Seven were in reference to himself, five to the team at large and two to teammates — “Our offensive line played good, they are going to get better” and “he’s going to be better from it” when asked about Harris’s fumble.

“We’re just going to go up from here,” Jones said.

One of the longer answers Jones gave was in response to a question about hyping up the defense following Harris’s fumble.

“I think being the quarterback I need to do a better job demanding better in practice,” Jones said. “I think sometimes I just let things slide, myself included.

“That’s not good enough. I’m going to try to be more vocal. I am a vocal person, but it’s kind of a new situation, and I can be better. But it starts with me. Defense, I can try and hype them up and stuff, and they played great. We have to do better on offense, so we’ll do that.”


More postgame notes from Patriots players:

– Running back Damien Harris said there were a lot of difficult plays, although his fumble was the hardest to overcome.

“It’s a tough play,” Harris said. “Obviously I have to do a better job of holding onto the ball, especially in a critical situation like that, but it’s a long season. Not going to let this mistake define me, so I’m just ready to move forward.”

– Harris said he would leave any evaluation of Mac Jones to Belichick. Asked again whether Jones showed toughness taking hits and standing in the pocket, Harris mumbled, “Yeah. I thought he played tough.”

– Linebacker Matt Judon was asked if the Patriots’ fourth-quarter interception was an example of the entire defense working together.

“That was just a good hands play by [Jonathan] Jones,” Judon said. “That’s what defense is. It’s just a bunch of guys doing their job. Plays like that, he was ready. Somebody else had pressure on Tua [Tagovailoa], first, and then I came in with the hit. The ball got tipped around a little bit and Jones came up with it. He was just ready for the opportunity and he was prepared. He caught the ball with two feet in.”

– Wide receiver Nelson Agholor expressed admiration for Harris and noted the Patriots wouldn’t have been in position to potentially win without him.

“He is a guy that understands the game of football, so I don’t really have to tell him anything because he works so hard,” Agholar said. “I think he is a great football player and if it weren’t for him, we wouldn’t have even been in that situation. He ran the ball so well, and I will let the coaches coach him on those responsibilities. As his teammate, I just continue to tell him I love the way he runs and how hard he plays.”


Agholor added that he wasn’t happy with his Patriots debut — despite a solid stat line — because of the loss.

“I should do more to help us win at the end of the day and that is the focus for each week,” Agholor said.

– Linebacker Josh Uche loved having fans back in the stands.

“It was dope,” he said. “This was my first game with fans. Especially on the third-down passing situations with how loud the fans got. Definitely love that, it definitely helps having that home-field advantage — especially with our fans.”

– Defensive back Jonathan Jones — whose fourth-quarter interception was nearly the turning point — was asked if the Patriots had a lack of focus.

“I would just say we did not do our job,” Jones said. “We show up every day. Like you said, uncharacteristic. That is something we cannot have if we want to win those games. From every phase I believe. If we want to win, we cannot do those things.”


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