By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Mac Jones was the fifth quarterback taken in this year's draft, and he was taken 15th overall. That of course means that 14 teams didn't want him, and four teams wanted a quarterback but wanted someone else.
It's only natural, then, that we're going to pay a little extra attention whenever Jones matches up against one of those other first-round quarterbacks from the 2021 draft. He got his first opportunity on Sunday, with the first head-to-head matchup with Zach Wilson and the New York Jets.
You can go ahead and put down a notch in the win column for Jones in this one. It wasn't even a contest.
Even if Jones weren't good on Sunday, he would've been the better quarterback, by virtue of Wilson throwing interceptions on both of his first two passes of the game. He'd throw a third interception later in the first half, and he'd add a ghastly interception to kill the opening drive of the second half.
Here's how it looked. It wasn't pretty.
Pick No. 1:
Pick No. 2:
Pick No. 3:
Pick No. 4:
By the fourth quarter, the home fans who entered MetLife Stadium excited to see the future of their franchise were showering Wilson with boos after a pair of wildly inaccurate passes and a fourth-down incompletion.
Suffice it to say, the afternoon was a complete and total nightmare for Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
On the other side, Mac Jones was very accurate and tremendously efficient while avoiding mistakes. Outside of a drop in the bucket to Jakobi Meyers in the second quarter, Jones didn't do much to fill up too many highlight reels.
But ... he didn't really have to. With Wilson giving the ball back to the Patriots time after time (after time ... after time), the Patriots steadily built their lead. One touchdown drive was carried by James White, and another came off the individual effort of Damien Harris.
Jones' lone miscue didn't hurt the Patriots, as he went into panic mode for the second straight week and fired a spike into the turf while trying to scramble away from pressure. Because that spike did not reach the line of scrimmage, Jones was hit with an intentional grounding penalty. Nick Folk bailed out the rookie though by successfully kicking the 49-yard field goal that followed.
The negatives from Jones' performance come more from absences than anything. He didn't throw any touchdowns. Outside of a 32-yard catch-and-run up the right seam to Hunter Henry ...
... he didn't hit on many explosive plays. He was 3-for-8 on third down, also taking two third-down sacks, and also committing the aforementioned intentional grounding penalty.
He was unspectacular but good enough. And that's something Zach Wilson wishes he could say about his own game.
That being said, Wilson might have made the best two passes of the game. He completed two picture-perfect passes up the left sideline in the second half -- one to Braxton Berrios, another to Jeff Smith. That was far too little, too late to salvage this day in any way for Wilson, though. (Wilson also made a dynamite open-field tackle on Devin McCourty, though that's one that the Jets wouldn't mind if he didn't have it in his repertoire.)
Stat-wise, Jones was 22-for-30 for 186 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns or interceptions, and he took three sacks, all of which came on third downs.
Jones also earned some respect for throwing a block on an end-around to Kendrick Bourne:
And for helping to push the pile on Harris' impressive run:
Wilson was 19-for-33 for 210 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. He was sacked four times (an improvement from last week's six) and had a grisly passer rating of 37.0.
He got his first taste of merciless boos from 80,000 Jets fans -- Jets fans who theoretically showed up to the stadium feeling optimistic for the state of their franchise. Sam Darnold? Didn't work out. Adam Gase? A failed era. Geno Smith? Not the guy. Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez? The past is the past.
The future? The future is Zach Wilson. The organization targeted the kid out of BYU long before draft night, enamored with his 33-touchdown, 3-interception season last year for the Cougars. Robert Saleh seems to be a wholly competent coach. And if you have the coach, and you have the QB, you are on your way as a franchise.
That at least might have been the thinking entering the stadium. By the middle of the first quarter, the outlook had changed.
As for the rest of the QB class, Jones will get to face No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars in Week 17, and he'll get to see Wilson again in Week 7. The Patriots don't have Justin Fields (Chicago) or Trey Lance (San Francisco) on the schedule this year.
How the careers of Jones and Wilson go from here can't be known. This game may end up being a blip on what turns out to be a very different story, or it might be representative of things to come.
For now, though, Jones can stick a no-doubt-about-it victory in his back pocket. Wilson? He'll be spending the next couple of days trying to shake off what must have felt like the worst day on a football field of his entire life.
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