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Breaking down Mac Jones' big game vs. Jacksonville

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Mac Jones capped off the Patriots' final regular-season home game against Jacksonville with one of the best performances yet of his impressive rookie year. The Pats rolled 50-10, becoming the first team since the 2014 Packers to break 50 points twice in a season, while Jones finished with a completion percentage of 70-or-higher for the ninth time this season, tying Dak Prescott for most by a rookie.

It was a fitting bounceback game for Jones and the Patriots after two-straight losses and one that helped them secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2019.

Jones' trademark accuracy was once again on display, but his overall performance showed how much progress the rookie has made this year. No matter how the 2021 season ends, the future looks bright in New England at the quarterback position.

Here are some highlights of Mac's impressive day.

Third Down

A week after going just 1-for-10 on third down against the Bills, the Patriots flipped the script going 8-for-10 against the Jags. For most of the season, the team's third-down performance on offense has actually been quite impressive, coming in at seventh in the league at a 43.2 percent clip, the team's highest rate since the 2016 season.

The offense immediately got off to a strong start on third down against the Jags, converting two on their way to an opening-drive touchdown. On the first, a 3rd-and-1, Jones found Jakobi Meyers on a crosser thanks to good protection that gave him time in the pocket. The pocket would be well-formed for the second as well, a 3rd-and-5 where Meyers broke his route to the outside and made another conversion.

The synergy between the quarterback and third-year receiver continues to be a key part of the offense, as Meyers finished with eight grabs on eight targets, giving him 79 on the season, 20 more than he had in 2020. For the day, Jones was 5-of-7 on third down, throwing for five conversions. None of the distances on those third downs were beyond seven yards, as the offense did a good job overall staying on schedule.

Red Zone

After having some ups and downs in the red zone this season, the Patriots were all about finishing with touchdowns against the Jags, going a perfect 6-for-6. Jones was especially efficient, completing 3-of-4 pass attempts inside the red zone with two touchdowns, both coming in the second quarter.

The first of those touchdowns came on a designed rollout, as Jones threw a subtle head fake just before pulling the trigger to ensure an open throwing window to Kristian Wilkerson. Throwing on the move was a little bit of a new twist for the rookie quarterback and he made this one look easy.

The second touchdown was more representative of what Jones has done best this season -- throwing the ball with anticipation and touch as he immediately launched a perfectly arcing pass into the hands of Jakobi Meyers at the opposite side of the end zone.

Jones' continued execution inside the red zone will be a huge key in the playoffs.

Downfield Throws

The first of the final two plays to take a closer look at came on Jones' final touchdown throw of the game, with Josh McDaniels' play design playing a big part in the busted coverage that the offense was able to exploit. Jakobi Meyers did an excellent job selling a wide receiver screen that fooled the Jaguar cornerback, who recklessly broke on the play, abandoning his coverage. With only a middle-of-field safety, Wilkerson and Jones recognized the mistake and the quarterback threw a perfect strike for the 20-yard score.

Jones and Wilkerson almost connected again on a deep throw but this one was more contested and Wilkerson was unable to bring it in. Still, this was one of Jones' best throws of the year, as he was able to step up in the pocket and deliver the downfield strike after recognizing the coverage.

Jones' short-area accuracy has been as advertised but his downfield accuracy has been underrated this season, with more than a couple of pinpoint throws being dropped like this one. The rookie's game is much more well-rounded than some initial scouting reports might've given him credit for.

Put it all together and the 50-10 win over the Jaguars showed why Jones has been so successful this season as he's quickly assimilated into the offense and is letting things come to him. As with all rookies, there were growing pains this season, but after breaking the Patriots rookie record for touchdown passes there's a lot to be excited about.

From here, with a game in Miami and then a likely road playoff game, things will only get tougher for Mac, but after Sunday, he and the offense should have confidence that they can move the ball on anyone when they execute in critical areas like they did against the Jags.

"I think we didn't play our best the past couple weeks, and our goal was to come together and kind of come together as an offense and address our issues that we wanted to fix," said Jones. "We have a lot more work to do, and every week when you get a chance to play, it's motivating because we're trying to be the best versions of ourselves and our best version of our offense. We've got to just keep doing that. Every time you get a chance to play, you've got to attack the week and prepare really hard, and when Sunday comes just go out there and be yourself and have fun."

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