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Mac Jones shares smiles with Bill Belichick in Patriots' blowout win

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones bounced back from two of his shakiest performances of the season in Sunday's 50-10 win against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, exhibiting the type of resolve that has endeared him to coaches and teammates from his first days on the job.

The complete domination was exactly what Jones and the Patriots needed; the true definition of a "get right" game against an inferior foe.

Jones finished 22-of-30 for 227 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The 15th overall selection in the 2021 NFL draft outplayed the No. 1 pick, Trevor Lawrence, who went 17-of-27 for 193 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Given how bad the Jaguars (2-14) are, there can be few definitive conclusions drawn from a big-picture standpoint other than perhaps this: It was a classic contrast between one organization that has successfully brought along its rookie quarterback and another organization that hasn't done enough to support its prized investment.

Jones and the Patriots improved to 10-6 with the win, clinching a playoff berth with a combination of the victory and the Miami Dolphins' loss to the Tennessee Titans.

If there was a signature moment Sunday, it was Jones and coach Bill Belichick -- two ultraserious personalities -- cracking smiles with each other on the sideline in the fourth quarter.

"He's a great person to coach because he's so responsive to do everything the way you want to do it," Belichick said. "[Offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] has done a fantastic job with him, and Mac has embraced the wisdom Josh has transmitted to him. He played extremely well today."

It helped that the Jaguars were ravaged by COVID-19 absences in the week leading up to the game, but after back-to-back losses in which Jones (two TD passes and four interceptions in those games) and the Patriots didn't consistently play with the level of fundamentals and discipline they need to compete in the postseason, they had to start somewhere.

"We talked about how it's us, it doesn't have a lot to do with the other team," said Jones, who waited for Lawrence on the field after the game and shared an embrace with him. "We just have to focus on what we're supposed to do, how we can do it better, which we didn't do in recent weeks. I think it was a good step today."

Belichick echoed those remarks after the game when he said: "I feel like we made some progress, but we've still got a long way to go here. Just need to keep grinding it out. Hopefully we'll do that and see where it takes us."

For Jones, who was helped Sunday by a strong running game that produced 181 yards on 36 attempts, experiencing playoff football should only benefit him and the Patriots from a long-range perspective.

"Any sport you play, you want to get a chance to play for a championship and for a playoff spot," he said. "We have a big game next week, and that's what we're going to focus on, finishing strong. We'll be where our feet are, and then when the next thing comes, we'll have a new plan and attack it."

That "big game" is the season finale on the road against the Dolphins, which has usually meant trouble; the Patriots are 2-7 in South Florida in the months of December and January under Belichick.

Jones, who broke the Patriots' single-season record for touchdown passes by a rookie (20) set by Jim Plunkett in 1971, enters with a shot of confidence after one of his best performances of the season, which drew praise from Belichick.

"Mac is super consistent. Every day is really the same day for Mac. He's always well prepared. He's in early. He's ready to go," Belichick said. "He's smart, a good learner. He has good instincts. He has good mechanics. He's worked hard to get better every day ... and has just improved in every area over the course of the year."