Mac Jones was putting the finishing touches on what had to be one of the most inconsistent days a quarterback can have. He was at times awesome and awful during the Patriots 37-26 Week 3 loss to the Ravens, making some plays with his feet and dropping downfield dimes to DeVante Parker while also misreading coverages and throwing three picks (and narrowly avoiding a fourth).
The final came in garbage time when he overshot Kendrick Bourne across the middle, but the blemish on the stat sheet was the least of his worries. Jones was hit just after throwing the ball, and Baltimore's Calais Campbell came down hard on him, causing his left ankle to buckle underneath him.
Multiple reports indicate he suffered a significant high ankle sprain. If true he won't likely be playing for at least a few weeks, and while that's a crushing blow for a second-year quarterback who needs the developmental time, it might not be the worst thing for him long term.
Jones has been embroiled in the controversy surrounding Bill Belichick's decision to use Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as his top offensive coaches despite their lack of experience on that side of the ball. Jones spent the entire summer answering questions about them instead of speaking about himself and his teammates.
There were times when Jones seemed frustrated with the entire experience, and although he handled his off-field responsibilities well for the most part, it placed an unfair burden on his shoulders that has carried into the season. Jones hasn't often looked like the poised, smart decision-maker we saw for much of his rookie season, and his five picks through three weeks is an indication of that. In truth, he could have at least that many more if not for some good fortune with potential picks in each game dropped by opposing defenders.
From an admittedly outside perspective, Jones has all the earmarks of a quarterback who is trying to do too much. Whether it's a lack of familiarity with the changes in the system, a lack of belief in the plan of attack or opposing defenses learning how to best defend him, Jones is pressing.
Through 21 games as a starter (including playoffs), Jones is now 11-10 with 26 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Last season he didn't throw his fifth pick until Week 5. Now he's leading the league and averages nearly one per game over his short career.
This was not how it was supposed to be for Jones, who was considered to be NFL-ready when it came to decision-making and avoiding turnovers. Again, he looks like a quarterback trying to put it all on his shoulders and it's leading to poor decisions like the one he made in the fourth quarter when he floated one to Marlon Humphrey in the back corner of the end zone.
Trailing 31-26 midway through the final quarter, Parker ran a corner route but was intercepted effectively by Humphrey. The Ravens corner easily made the pick as Jones delivered the ball off his back foot while dealing with a safety blitz off the front side. Jones may have been trying to throw it away and simply underthrew it, but he was pretty hot on the sideline after and seemed to upset with some element of the play.
Probably a little bit of everything, but that was precisely the kind of throw he was supposed to be great at avoiding. A field goal would have been valuable points with nine minutes still to go. The prior play was a draw to Damien Harris on second-and-goal from the 14, so it would be understandable if that choice still had him hot and bothered as well.
Still, no excuse for being so careless with the ball, and ultimately those turnovers were the main reason for defeat. The same was true in the opener in Miami.
So, now Jones faces some time off, and it might be exactly what he needs to settle down mentally and regroup. Sometimes young quarterbacks learn plenty from watching on the sidelines, and Brian Hoyer might be able to avoid some of those turnovers that have derailed the offense thus far.
Calling the injury a blessing in disguise may be going a bit too far, but given his current mental state some time off could be the perfect remedy for him to fix the mistakes.
Patriots fans are certainly aware of the early-season weather conditions in Miami and how they can impact a game. Usually it involves the visitors being ill-equipped to withstand the rigors of on-field temps in the triple digits with humidity through the roof.
That was the case Sunday when the Dolphins hosted Buffalo, who was playing without a multitude of starters including six on defense alone. But it wasn't the Bills defense that wilted in the heat, and amazingly Miami's defense somehow stood tall as well.
Josh Allen and the Bills manhandled Miami for most of the day. They held the ball for almost 41 minutes and racked up nearly 500 yards of offense. In all the unit forced Miami to defend a mind-numbing 90 plays. Still, it was Miami who came out on top, squeaking out a 21-19 win that put the Dolphins on top in the AFC East.
Allen threw it 62 times for 400 yards, but was unable to pick up the final couple of yards necessary on a couple of occasions. The last was particularly excruciating when the Bills frantically tried to get in field goal range in the waning seconds but could not get out bounds and then failed to spike it before time ran out. That led to offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey's nutty in the press box, caught on camera and making the Twitter rounds Sunday night.
Of more importance than the loss for Buffalo is the suddenly alarming amount of players knocked out of the lineup. The entire secondary missed the game as well as starting defensive linemen Ed Oliver and Jordan Phillips. Problems on the offensive line surfaced when Allen had trouble with snaps while playing without starting center Mitch Morse, leading to a failure to spike the ball at the end of the first half.
The Bills remain immensely talented and a look at the final stats show a 497-212 edge in total yards, which indicates the flukiness of the defeat. But at the same time Buffalo has a closing problem when it's close, having now lost their last seven one-possession games. Until Sean McDermott finds a way to fix that, opponents will enjoy a mental edge down the stretch if the game is in the balance.
As for Miami, it was a terrific team win and further adds to the team's confidence under first-year coach Mike McDaniel. But it was hard to watch the highlights of Tua Tagovailoa stumbling toward the huddle following a Matt Milano push and not have a pit in your stomach.
Tagovailoa rose to his feet after the shove, but appeared woozy as he staggered toward a couple of teammates with his knees buckling. He left the game but returned in the second half, reportedly after being cleared. The team indicated that the quarterback was dealing with a back injury, which is hard to believe considering the story the pictures told. The NFLPA said it would investigate further to make sure that proper concussion protocols were followed.
Jalen Hurts was the forgotten Alabama quarterback after he was replaced by Tagovailoa in the second half of the national championship game against Georgia back in 2018. Hurts handled the demotion with tremendous class at the time, and eventually transferred to Oklahoma for his final college season.
Tagovailoa remained the Tide's starter while Mac Jones served as his backup before winning the job over Bryce Young in 2020. Tagovailoa was considered the top overall prospect before a serious hip injury ended his final season in Tuscaloosa, and then Jones won it all in his lone season as the starter the following year, earning a first-round grade as well.
But three games into the 2022 season it's Hurts who is generating all the attention. Tagovailoa has played well in Miami but Hurts is lighting it up for the Eagles. He's completing more than 67 percent of his throws and leads the league with an average of 9.4 yards per attempt for 3-0 Philadelphia. No one has improved more over the last three seasons than Hurts.
Week 3 tidbits
Hard to watch Justin Herbert trying to gut his way through Sunday's blowout loss to Jacksonville. Chargers coach Brandon Staley did his star pupil no favors by allowing him to play with fractured rib cartilage in the first place, but then was quite negligent in keeping Herbert on the field throughout the 38-10 loss. Hard to imagine the Chargers accomplishing much without Herbert, and it was clear that preparing to play with veteran backup Chase Daniel would have been the better option. …
Not sure which fact is stranger: the NFL having just two unbeaten teams (Miami, Philadelphia) after only three weeks of play or just one winless one (Las Vegas)? …
Interesting note from Peter King in his weekly FMIA column with regards to some of the league's elite quarterbacks. Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen went to work on Sunday and put up 12, 14, 17 and 19 points, respectively. Hard to imagine all that firepower with so few points.
- Buffalo (2-1) – Yes the Bills were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten but given the personnel losses and the tenor of the game they get a one-week pass.
- Philadelphia (3-0) – The Eagles offense has been rejuvenated with the addition of A.J. Brown and the maturation of Jalen Hurts.
- Kansas City (2-1) – The Chiefs stumbled on the road against a desperate Indy team but remain one of the AFC's elite.
- Miami (3-0) – Truth be told I'm still not completely sold on Tua or the Dolphins but the scoreboard says otherwise.
- Green Bay (2-1) – The Packers came out flying in Tampa but fizzled in the second half. Will Aaron Rodgers ever get comfortable with his new receivers?