If he did hit rock bottom, Mac Jones certainly grazed it during New England's 38-3 loss to the Cowboys in Week 4. The Patriots quarterback unraveled, throwing two interceptions and fumbling the football with two of those turnovers being recovered by Dallas and returned for a touchdown. Jones was even sent to the bench by Bill Belichick in place of backup Bailey Zappe in the second half, marking the second time in as many seasons that the head coach has taken him out early following a poor performance.
The most startling aspect of this game was the devolution of Jones' mind. His decision-making and pre-snap evaluation has been one of his great strengths dating to his days at Alabama, but Jones' head was spinning on Sunday, which led to a number of questionable decisions.
"You always have to play mentally within yourself," Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien told reporters Tuesday, via NESN.com. "It doesn't mean that you can't take calculated risks, it doesn't mean that when something opens up — and you're not necessarily a runner — that you can't take off and run. It just means that you have to do a really good job of making sure that you understand what we're trying to do on every play and executing that play to the best of your ability at a high level — and take what the defense gives you. And, really, I would say for the most part Mac does that. I think that's, again, where we have to work together. We're going to work really hard this week to improve some things.
"But I thought that last game, for Mac, some of the decisions that he made were very uncharacteristic of Mac. I think he'll get back to doing it the way he knows how to do it. He's just trying to make a play, he's wanting to win, he's very competitive. Maybe the plays weren't great. So I have to be involved in that, big-time, with him. I understand that. I think you'll see a lot of improvement in Mac as we keep moving forward here."
While Sunday's loss and showing from Jones was arguably the worst performance of his career, O'Brien did express confidence that he will bounce back and noted that there is still plenty of belief in him as the club's signal-caller.
"Mac is a battler," O'Brien said. "He is a competitor. When you play quarterback in this league, you have to limit the mistakes and you have to limit the bad games you have, obviously. We're all in it together. We have to do a better job of coaching up some things with him. He has to do a better job of making good decisions for us. He knows that. He takes a lot of ownership — you guys saw that, I think, after the game.
"He blames himself. The game wasn't lost because of one guy. The game was lost, on our part, because of how poorly we played and coached in the game. Mac is here today, he's working very hard to get back on the right track. We have a lot of belief in Mac."
Sunday's loss was a low moment of the post-Tom Brady era for New England. The 38-3 blowout marked the largest setback in any game of Belichick's head coaching career. With the team teetering at 1-3, these next few weeks will be vital not only for their prospects to play meaningful games in December but possibly for Jones' tenure -- and many others -- going forward.