Sports

Mac Jones’ poise stands out for Patriots in leading first NFL game-winning drive

HOUSTON — Sunday wasn’t the New England Patriots‘ best day, but when they needed a boost most, rookie quarterback Mac Jones delivered for them.

Call it Mac’s Moment.

Jones led his first career game-winning drive in the NFL — a 15-play march that chewed up seven minutes in the fourth quarter to set up Nick Folk‘s 21-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining — helping the Patriots escape with a 25-22 victory against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

“I think I’ve said it every week, just how much we believe in him. The poise you’ve seen out of him these first [five] weeks, I can’t imagine,” starting center David Andrews said. “What a great win for him, what a great win for this football team. We needed it.”

The Patriots rallied from a 22-9 second-half deficit to avoid a three-game losing streak and improve to 2-3. They now look ahead to next Sunday’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

They do so with a growing comfort with Jones and how he’s leading the offense. The rookie finished 23-of-30 for 231 yards and one touchdown with one interception.

“No. 10, man, he’s a tough son of a gun. The kid stands in there, he makes throws, he takes hits,” Andrews said. “He’s never negative — especially after some of our performances here of late — [and] he has our back. When you get to play for a guy like that, it’s a great opportunity.”

That was one of the biggest takeaways after a daylong struggle for the Patriots in which their defense started alarmingly slow and a fumble at the goal line by running back Damien Harris negated a would-be touchdown in the second quarter: Jones continues to win over his teammates.

Starting defensive tackle Davon Godchaux‘s tweet after the game was one example.

“Mac gave it to us all day. I thought we moved the ball, and I thought he made a lot of good decisions,” coach Bill Belichick said. “There were some checks he had to make, but really the last drive — the third-down conversion to [tight end] Hunter Henry and then we had a couple good runs in there.

“But Mac’s been good for us all year in terms of his leadership, his resilience, and kind of always counting on him to do the right thing. And he really does it at a high level. It’s been impressive.”

Jones has completed more than 70% of his passes in four of his five starts, and his 135 completions are tied with Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals for the most ever by a rookie in his first five starts.

His top target Sunday was Henry, who finished with a team-high six receptions for 75 yards. Henry has been a big booster of Jones — the two have connected off the field as neighbors — and he said he was proud of Jones’ performance Sunday.

“He’s tough, man. He stands in there,” said Henry, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on a corner route early in the fourth quarter and also had a key 10-yard reception on third-and-6 on the game-winning drive.

“It says a lot to the older guys who have been around, to be that young and stand in there and fire the ball, it gives a lot of confidence to the receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen, too.”

The winning drive was aided, in part, by a roughing the passer penalty on third-and-18. It was the break the Patriots needed to get the drive started, and from there, Jones played like the “ice man” he said he strives to be — “nice and smooth, cool, calm and collected.”

“I don’t know if we outplayed the other team, but we out-competed [them],” Jones said. “Sometimes you just have to find a way to win.”



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