FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots have given up.
Trailing 24-0 early in the second half, he heard boos at home as he once did away from home, a week after the worst loss of coach Bill Belichick’s career when quarterback Mac Jones was benched for the second straight game. The Patriots knocked the ball away on a fourth-and-3 inside Saints territory.
The switch gave New England 27 yards — a small change in field position that accomplished nothing. Two more punts and an interception – his second – later, Jones was replaced by Bailey Zappe, prompting one of the few cheers of the day.
“Obviously it wasn’t really good and everyone is frustrated,” Jones said afterwards the 0:34 defeat against the New Orleans Saints. “Of course we are frustrated. At the end of the day you have to make it happen.”
One week later a 38-3 loss to Dallas which marked an all-time low for Belichick, the Patriots may have upped the ante with the greatest home shutout in the history of the once-proud franchise. The only time the team fared worse: a 52-0 loss to the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.
This definitely wasn’t the 1972 Dolphins.
New Orleans (3-2) defeated Tennessee and Carolina – two last-place teams – by a combined four points and then lost to the Packers and Buccaneers. But the Saints found a way to end their two-game losing streak: a trip to New England that fell to 1-4 for the first time since Belichick’s first season in 2000.
“Obviously it was a poor performance here today,” Belichick said in a largely inaudible postgame news conference that began with him lowering two microphones and removing one completely from the stands. “Slow start. We just couldn’t get the game under control.”
Jones completed 12 of 22 passes for 110 yards and two interceptions – one of which was a pick-6 where he was hit while throwing the ball, the other went in and out of a receiver’s hands. His passer rating of 30.5 was the second-worst of his career.
Things started badly and never improved.
New England’s first possession ended with a three-and-out, and the second ended when Tyrann Mathieu picked off Jones and ran him downfield from the Patriots’ 27-yard line. Their next drive was their longest — seven plays for 49 yards — and it ended with a missed 48-yard field goal.
His remaining possessions: Punt, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Punt, Interception.
“We don’t want to get zero points. It’s not the goal,” said Jones, who has regressed since a rookie season in which he outplayed the four quarterbacks drafted before him and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. “We didn’t get any points. That’s the most important thing: collecting points.”
Jones has five touchdown passes in five games this season, but has also scored on three interceptions and one fumble. His four pick-6s in 19 games at Gillette Stadium are as many as Tom Brady has thrown in the regular season in his 18 years in the building.
Asked if Jones was still the starter ahead of next week’s game against Las Vegas and longtime Patriots assistant coach Josh McDaniel, Belichick said: “There were a lot of issues, it certainly wasn’t just him.”
Zappe wasn’t much better, rushing open receivers and failing to gain a first down on four possessions while completing three of nine passes for 22 yards. And when the Patriots actually scored on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter, they couldn’t convert either.
“We put in a lot every week and it’s tough to go out there and not play your best,” center David Andrews said. “I can’t lie down; can not stop; long year. We’ll come back and get back to work. That’s all I can do.”