Mac Jones led the New England Patriots to a 22-17 victory away to the New York Jets in the Week 8 AFC East showdown. Jones had a much more convincing performance than Week 7’s 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Should we consider the Patriots QB debate settled, or will Bailey Zappe have a say at some point this season? Let’s break down the 3 takeaways from the Patriots’ win over the Jets in East Rutherford.
1: New England’s Defensive Domination
After the New York Jets traded a 6th-round draft pick for Jaguars running back James Robinson, New England knew they would have to focus on limiting the Jets’ rushing game, which is precisely what they did. Robinson only had 17 rushing yards on five carries and was effectively shut out of the game by New England’s defense.
Not only was the new running back inhibited by the Patriots, but New England also held backup RB Michael Carter to only 26 rushing yards on seven carries. After losing rookie Breece Hall for the rest of the season due to an ACL injury suffered in Week 7, the Jets will look to integrate Robinson as the starting running back for the remainder of the year.
Since the Patriots were able to take away the Jets’ run game, they made New York into a one-dimensional side that relied on QB Zach Wilson. Exactly what New England hoped for. The Patriots’ defense sacked Wilson two times and forced three interceptions from the second-year quarterback out of BYU. However, the Jets’ quarterback also completed 20 of his 41 passing attempts for 355 yards and two touchdowns.
New England fans should be happy they were able to hold off the now 5-3 Jets without one of their most important defensive players, safety Kyle Dugger, who was absent due to an ankle injury suffered in Week 7 against the Bears.
2: Mac Jones Settles Patriots QB Debate
NBC Sports’ Josh Alper reported that starting center David Andrews would miss the crucial AFC East matchup with the Jets earlier this week, and many wondered if Mac Jones would be able to handle more defensive pressure coming his way. If you were to look at the statistics, they would imply Jones had a rough day. Getting sacked six times, throwing an interception, and fumbling the football usually doesn’t bode well for many quarterbacks in the NFL.
Yet, most of these metrics unfairly characterize a solid performance by Mac Jones that should settle the Patriots QB debate with Bailey Zappe. The interception that was thrown came from a deflection, and it was painfully obvious New England’s offensive line had a poor performance without their veteran center David Andrews, who hadn’t missed a start since 2020. Jones completed 24 of his 35 pass attempts, threw for 194 yards, and added a four-yard touchdown pass to WR Jakobi Meyers on a 4th and 1 early in the third quarter.
The second-year quarterback out of Alabama posted a QB rating of 79.9, his second-best of the season thus far (87.2 in Week 1 against the Dolphins). Let’s not forget why there became a Patriots QB debate between Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe; Jones had suffered a nasty high-ankle sprain in Week 3’s loss to the Ravens, forcing him to the sidelines for four weeks.
Last week against the Bears was the first game back for Mac Jones, but clearly, he was not 100%. This week against the Jets he looked not only physically ready but projected more confidence and composure in the pocket that will only improve going forward. If Jones is to build on this performance, consider the Patriots QB debate with Bailey Zappe over.
3: Rhamondre Stevenson Is The Real MVP
CBS Sports’ Jordan Dajani credited Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson as the “star of the show” on the offensive side of the ball. Stevenson ran for 71 yards on 16 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. However, it was surprisingly the receiving game Stevenson excelled at. The second-year running back out of Oklahoma had 71 receiving yards on 7 catches, averaging 10.3 per catch.
Stevenson had started off the year competing with running back Damien Harris for the starting spot, but once Harris suffered a hamstring injury against the Lions in Week 5, Stevenson has assumed the role of RB1 for the Patriots. Since Week 6, Rhamondre Stevenson has rushed for 186 yards on 46 rushing attempts, averaging 4.04 yards per carry. He has added three rushing touchdowns as well, paired with 146 receiving yards on 19 catches, averaging 7.68 yards per catch.
The emergence of Stevenson as New England’s starting running back puts into question Damien Harris’ future with the Patriots, and if he may get moved ahead of the NFL trade deadline on November 1st.
Back To Winning Ways
The Patriots leave East Rutherford with a 4-4 record but still sit at the bottom of the AFC East. This was a must-win game for New England, and they now head into next week’s matchup with the 3-3-1 Indianapolis Colts with confidence they can climb above the .500 mark for the first time this season.
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