EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As the final seconds ticked away in the Meadowlands on Sunday night, Mac Jones and Cam Newton stood on the Patriots sideline, the rookie smiling and bent over laughing as the veteran espoused his unique humor.
It was very apropos moment that sort of encapsulated the summer for the two quarterbacks, who have been side by side and neck and neck in a competition for the starter’s job.
“I think we just have good conversations and he’s like a big mentor for me,” said Jones, asked about the chat. “So, at the same time we can still have fun, kind of just talking. We’re human, we’re not going to be serious all the time. He’s a funny guy and he’s got some good jokes. So, I just like to have good conversations with him.”
Though coach Bill Belichick said following the 22-20 win over the Giants that no decision has been made at QB, certain signs point to Newton keeping the job that he held throughout the 2020 season, save for one game as he dealt with COVID-19.
“We have a lot of decisions to make,” said the coach. “We’ll be focusing on Miami.”
As he has all summer, Newton got the ball first Sunday, though he and the rest of the projected starters on offense played just two series. Newton, who missed three practices last week because of COVID-19 protocols, was not nearly as sharp as he was against the Eagles.
Newton hit on just 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards and an interception. The pick came on a seam throw to Jakobi Meyers, and it wasn’t a horrendous throw. Yes, Newton could have put a little more air under the ball, but it was more of a great play by Blake Martinez than anything else. The linebacker raced back in coverage and ripped the ball out of Meyers’s hands as both fell to the turf.
It was Newton’s final play of the preseason, in which he finished 14 of 21 for 162 yards with a TD and an interception.
Jones put a bow on his sterling summer, leading the Patriots to their two touchdowns and 16 total points
Jones overcame a sluggish start, including a delay of game penalty on his first snap, to fuel touchdowns on the first drives of the second half. Playing exclusively with the second- and third-team offense, he finished 10 of 14 for 156 yards and a touchdown. His best throws were a 17-yard scoring strike to Isaiah Zuber, when he froze the defense with a look right before turning and hitting his receiver with a rope, and a 30-yard back shoulder beauty to Devin Asiasi.
Jones finished the exhibition season 36 of 52 for 388 yards and a score, and sidestepped a question about whether he’s done enough to secure the starter’s job.
“I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to play and I can improve on everything I want to improve on. So I think just learning from [Brian] Hoyer, Cam, Jarrett [Stidham], any one I can, and listening to Josh [McDaniels] and his coaching, there’s a lot of work to do but I think I’ve made progress,” Jones said. “But, honestly, the only thing that matters is today.”
No matter where he ends up on the depth chart, Jones said he will go about his business as if it’s his job.
“I learned at a young age just to prepare as the starter. You don’t have to be the starter, but prepare and get in your routine, that’s something that coach talked about today,” said Jones.
Here are some other observations as the Patriots closed out the exhibition season at a perfect 3-0.
⋅ The New England defense spent a couple of days last week battering and befuddling Giants quarterback Daniel Jones during joint practices. They continued that from the opening kickoff. The front seven generated pressure from multiple angles and were in Jones’s face like a Wall Street trader at the opening bell. Josh Uche led the hit parade with a sack and a pair of quarterback hits.
⋅ The kicking competition continued, with incumbent Nick Folk drilling a 41-yarder and dark horse candidate Quinn Nordin answering with kicks of 48 and 37 yards. The rookie did miss a 54-yarder late.
⋅ Joejuan Williams played a good chunk of the first half at corner, then switched to safety in the second half.
⋅ Asiasi, who got a late start in training camp because of a bout with COVID-19, continued his summer surge. The second-year tight end had four catches for 64 yards.
⋅ The running back room is stacked, and J.J. Taylor is determined not to get squeezed out. The diminutive dynamo had a game-high 76 yards rushing and 140 all-purpose yards.
Taylor and Meyers were used as punt returners. All-Pro Gunner Olszewski, who did not practice Friday, played exclusively as a receiver.
⋅ Rough night for aspiring corner Michael Jackson, who was beaten for a couple of big catches, was flagged for holding, and then missed a substitution causing a too many men on the field flag.
⋅ The Patriots came out of the game with no obvious injuries. Winning in preseason is good, but coming out healthy is the real goal.
⋅ Nice moment during the two-minute warning, when veteran offensive lineman James Ferentz pulled each teammate in the huddle close and hugged them. It appeared to be appreciation for a long summer battle together.
⋅ The Giants held a moment of silence for the 13 Marines killed last week in Afghanistan, as well as recognized former head coach Jim Fassel, who suffered a fatal heart attack in June. He was 71.