To say the New England Patriots’ 2021 season ended on a sour note would be an understatement. Life gave the slightly shorthanded Patriots lemons on Saturday night in the wild-card round of the playoffs, and they took a bite straight from the rind as they fell 47-17 to the Buffalo Bills in one of the most lopsided postseason contests in NFL history.
Until those final four quarters of the season, however, the Patriots played to expectations with rookie quarterback Mac Jones at the helm of an overturned roster. And while expectations for years in New England were Super Bowl or bust, goalposts move when the greatest quarterback in NFL history departs in free agency. For the 2021 Patriots, just making the playoffs was an improvement over last year’s 7-9 dud.
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There were high highs — the midseason seven-game winning streak and playoff appearance — and the lowest of lows — getting humbled by an AFC East foe that, for the first time in NFL history, didn’t turn the ball over, punt, kick a field goal or even give the ball over on downs in a game.
But as the sting of that loss subsides, the Patriots should be feeling more hopeful about the team’s future based on what Jones flashed in 2021. Jones was far and away PFF’s highest-graded rookie quarterback this season and the only rookie quarterback to lead his team into the postseason.
Still, results were mixed when asking NFL coaches, scouts and executives about Jones’ performance, and there remain concerns over the rookie’s perceived limitations and questions about his potential upside.
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“Thought it was good,” a scout said about Jones’ rookie campaign. “He played really well within the offense, gave the Patriots a chance to win every week.”