With New England’s 10-3 win over the Jets, the Patriots are out of the bottom of the AFC East and actually own a three-game winning streak. The win was crucial as the team began a stretch of three games in 12 days.
While a crucial win, the victory was far from pretty. The game featured 17 punts and one return ended up winning the game for New England. With less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, rookie Marcus Jones returned a punt 84 yards for what ended up being the only touchdown of the game, sending Gillette Stadium into a frenzy.
The touchdown was the first of Jones’ career and also the first punt return touchdown of the entire 2022 NFL season. The rookie was also lucky enough to have both of his parents present at Gillette Stadium in what was their first trip to New England this season.
“Special teams is definitely a big role,” Jones said after the game when asked about the unit. “It’s longer than an average offensive and defensive play and usually you’re out there for one play and most people give it their all every single time they go out there. It’s very important for the field position aspect of the game.”
Bill Belichick Weighs in on Marcus Jones
With a wild ending such as Jones’ punt return, the Patriots head coach was asked about the performance of the rookie. Belichick said that Jones has come a long way since the start of the season.
“Yeah, Marcus is really quick. I think Troy Brown has done a great job with him,” Belichick said. “Where Marcus was when he got here and where he is now are – they’re an ocean apart. Troy has really done a good job with the ball handling, ball catching, making the first guy miss, ball security, setting up blocks, having vision on the ball, the gunner, playing the wind, so forth.
“Marcus – we didn’t feel like he was quite ready at the beginning of the year. We went with Myles [Bryant]. Then as Marcus got better and gained more experience and confidence and then performed well, then he’s handled all the return game for a number of weeks now.”
Belichick continued praising both Brown and Jones.
“But yeah, Troy has done a tremendous job with Marcus,” the head coach said. “Marcus has worked hard and he’s really improved. He’s had a number of big returns for us, but obviously today going to the house, might have been the first one in the league this year, I don’t know. Obviously a huge play in the game, and great execution by the punt return team to get Marcus started and then handle [Justin] Hardee, who’s a good coverage player, Hardee, [Brandin] Echols and [Ashtyn] Davis.
“Those three guys make a lot of tackles for the Jets. If you can get them blocked, get it started, then you at least have a chance. Then he did the rest. Well he didn’t – there were some other good blocks in there, too, but it was good. But our combination of rushes and returns, we try to keep the pressure on their punt team, and it paid off for us today.”
Marcus Jones’ Teammates Praise ‘Incredible Play’
With Jones’ touchdown securing a divisional win, his teammates were excited for the rookie. That includes running back Damien Harris.
“We were all tuned in because offensively we wanted to see where we were going to get the ball compared to how much time we were going to have and see what we were going to be able to do with a two-minute drive at the end of the game,” Harris said. “He started running and he kept running and he kept running and the next thing I knew the whole team was in the endzone. Shoutout to Marcus [Jones], that was an incredible play. Shoutout to the whole punt return team, that was an incredible play. Really thankful that they pulled that off for us.”