Patriots: Jones hard on himself after first season ends with brutal playoff loss in Buffalo

Mac Jones was not the reason the Patriots imploded down the stretch and were humiliated by the Bills in the AFC Wild Card game on Saturday night, but the starting quarterback sure sounded like he thought was.

Jones may have under thrown Nelson Agholor on the ball that was intercepted by Micah Hyde – it was still a hell of a play – but given the talent around him and Buffalo’s thirst to truly get over the enormous hurdle that has been the Patriots over the last 20 years, Jones was pretty good in the loss. The defense is the biggest issue coming out of that game and while it’s hard to call this season a success based on how wide open the AFC was and the stranglehold the Pats had on the No. 1 seed, Jones’ first season was at least productive.

Jones got the full roller coaster ride of emotions and went through various situations throughout the year and held is own. The young kid who had never played in cold weather also got his taste of it in various forms this season. Aside from the Hyde pick and tipped ball interception, it seemed like the coaching staff was willing to let him sling it in his first playoff game in the frigid conditions of Orchard Park. The playoff experience – win or lose – is invaluable for a rookie.

Perhaps the biggest take away from the game and season overall for Jones is how difficult it is to grow into a leadership role in the NFL. His biggest flaw may have been that he was trying too hard to be the lead guy at times, often showing a bit of his youth with some subdued outbursts.

There’s no excuses coming from Jones though.

“To try and play better than we did,” Jones said when asked what he learned from his first playoff start. “I think it just goes back to practice and just holding everybody to a higher standard. I know that I’m a rookie or whatever, but I could have done a better job of just holding everybody to that standard, myself included. I think we’ll make a lot of progress in the offseason with that and my leadership. Just being myself and sometimes it shows out on the field, but it’s a result of how we prepare.

“We put a lot of effort into it, it’s not like we don’t do that, but I think just the little things show up in the game. Like, tonight the little things show up in the game for everybody. Myself included. That’s just something I learned. I’ll just try and watch the tape and learn from it, but I do appreciate everybody on our team for having my back and I wish I could have played better. Obviously, you want to win every game you play in and hopefully we’ll get a chance to have a really good offseason and funnel it into next year, that’s all you can do.”

It’s good to see and hear a rookie shouldering almost all of the responsibility when it comes to guys apparently not being nearly as focused after the bye, but he shouldn’t have to. Practice being brought back up again is extremely concerning, a topic of discussion far more than it should have been in December and then into January. That falls on guys like Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower (who looked slow the final few weeks) Matt Slater, Brandon Bolden and David Andrews, who all should have been able to get their teammates attention better than they did, but couldn’t for whatever reason.

“Every day is a new day, it’s a grind and with me, it’s all about coming to work every day and trying to put your best foot forward,” he added. “There’s a lot that comes at you, but we’ve got a lot of good guys on this team that I’ve learned a lot from in terms of leadership. Whether that be addressing the team or how they lead and all that, obviously we weren’t good enough (Saturday) night and it just wasn’t our day.

“We’ve got to try and put a better product on the field.”

Whatever it was that caused the Patriots to let a golden opportunity slip through their collective fingers with an unpredictable playoff picture in front of them, we know it wasn’t Jones that was the problem and that’s really all you could have asked for from him when he was drafted. Jones believes he can be better on and off the field next year and there’s plenty of reason to believe he will be. The arm needs to get stronger, but it’s obvious he has the intangibles and toughness to last in the league.

The conviction he spoke with following the loss to the Bills should be what has fans most excited and he’s ready to continue flying the proverbial plane for the Patriots…almost quite literally.

“A lot of guys would agree with me that we can push each other harder to get that product on the field,” said Jones. “I think there will be a lot of strides this offseason to get there. Just working together however we can and that’s going to show up next year.

“You get more comfortable with anything you do in life, I always relate it to being a pilot. If you’re a pilot and you’ve flown so many times, if you have hundreds of flight hours, it’s just an every day thing for you. So, for me, obviously I was a rookie and I played (poorly) sometimes and I shouldn’t have and I can play better and that’s my goal this offseason, to just advance and bring the guys along with me. We have great players all around me and I know we have a lot of progress to make and I’ll just feel more comfortable with anything to do with the second time around. Schedule, like, routine, everything. There’s no excuses but there’s a lot that goes into it.”