NFL

Mac impresses in debut, but Pats fall to Dolphins

  • Covered Patriots since 1997
  • Joined ESPN in 2009

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones turned in a sterling performance in his NFL debut Sunday, but a late fumble by running back Damien Harris at the Miami Dolphins’ 9-yard line ended what could have been a go-ahead touchdown drive, as the Patriots fell 17-16 at Gillette Stadium.

Jones finished 29-of-39 for 281 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. The 281 passing yards are the most by a Patriots quarterback in his first career start, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

When the Patriots took over at the 50-yard line with 8 minutes, 7 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on a Jonathan Jones interception, the stage was set for some late-game magic that Patriots fans previously became accustomed to watching Tom Brady from 2001 to 2019.

But Harris had the ball stripped away from him by Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard at the 9-yard line with just more than three minutes left in the game, and Howard also recovered it.

The Dolphins converted two first downs to run out the clock.

It was a stunning turn on a day that Jones met expectations that arrived with him after the Patriots selected him with the 15th overall pick in the draft.

He threw his first career touchdown pass late in the second quarter, a 7-yard connection to receiver Nelson Agholor. One of the themes of the day was Jones’ production under duress, as he was 8-of-12 with the touchdown when facing pressure, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Rookie quarterbacks had been 6-0 under Bill Belichick in their first career starts. Jones’ debut was highly anticipated in New England, with the crowd rising to its feet as he took the field in warm-ups and the song “Mr. Jones,” by Mike Jones, played.

This is the second straight season the Patriots lost an AFC East game on a fumble in field goal range. Last year, they trailed the Buffalo Bills 24-21 at the Bills’ 19-yard line before QB Cam Newton fumbled with 37 seconds left.

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