Daniel Jones, say hello to Bill Belichick. And if you hadn’t figured it out already, he’s really, really good at outsmarting quarterbacks.
Especially rookie quarterbacks like you.
Jones learned that lesson the hard way in his first matchup against a Belichick defense. While there were some bright moments for the No. 6 overall pick, he was welcomed by the defending Super Bowl champions with a heavy dose of confusion at Gillette Stadium in his first prime-time matchup.
The interceptions soon piled up, one by one. By the early portion of the second quarter, there were two of them. And another early in the third quarter as Belichick’s defense, perhaps his best ever in New England, conspired against Jones, who already was challenged by the absence of three starters, including Saquon Barkley.
Much of it was to be expected, given Jones’ inexperience and Belichick’s historic body of work as a defensive coach. The legendary coach has six Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and another two as the Giants’ former defensive coordinator. Jones was overmatched from the start, and even if he had had his full complement of skill position players, he might have met a similar fate.
Belichick has never lost at home to a rookie quarterback, running his streak to 12 straight with Thursday night’s 35-14 win for the 6-0 Patriots.
“We came into the game expecting to win,” Jones said. “We came in confident. I don’t think it was overwhelming. It was just bad decisions.”
Jones’ first NFL start was a transcendent performance at Tampa Bay. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, including the game-winner, in an electrifying 32-31 comeback win.
But the interceptions are beginning to pile up. There were two against the Redskins and another against the Vikings. And there were three more Thursday night.
Jones seemed rattled through much of the game against the Patriots, who had allowed a mere 34 points in dispatching their first five opponents. On his second series, he attempted a pass over the middle to Golden Tate, but Stephon Gilmore deflected the ball into the air and it was picked off by John Simon.
On his next pick, Jones faded back in the pocket and looked to his left for tight end Rhett Ellison, but Danny Shelton got a hand on Jones’ forearm and the ball fluttered well short of Ellison. Duron Harmon caught it at the Giants’ 47 and returned it 27 yards to the 20.
Tom Brady took advantage of the turnover by driving the Patriots for an easy touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Jones showed resilience by answering that score with one of his own. He found Tate down the right side and fired a perfect pass that Tate turned into a 64-yard touchdown.
It was the first touchdown pass surrendered by the Patriots this season, a remarkable run for Belichick’s team but also a positive sign that Jones could solve the defense at that moment.
The Giants tied it at 14 on Markus Golden’s 43-yard return after Brady fumbled on a strip-sack by Lorenzo Carter.
Trailing 21-14 to start the third quarter,
Jones ran into more turnover problems. He saw Ellison open briefly down the right sideline but didn’t see Gilmore, who was laying in wait in a zone coverage and easily picked it off.
“First [INT] was late and forced it,” he said. “Second one I held the ball too long. Third one was just a bad decision.”
Giants coach Pat Shurmur said he told Jones to “just keep playing” despite the turnovers. “Clean up the mistakes and move on. You can’t obviously throw interceptions, but he made a lot of good throws. We just didn’t win the game and we didn’t make enough plays.
Jones took the blame for most of the team’s problems.
“I think we’re pushing to play better and by no means are we panicked or questioning ourselves,” he said. “We need to play better, and I need to play better. They’re a good defense . They do a number of different things and they do it well, but I think it was about our execution and taking care of the ball that are really fundamental.”
It was a painful early lesson for Jones but one that ultimately will serve him well as he continues his apprenticeship in a league currently owned by Belichick and Brady.