Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones said he “didn’t mean to hurt anybody” when he tugged at the ankle of Carolina’s Brian Burns in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.
“I was just trying to tackle him and make the play because I didn’t really know what was going on,” Jones said Monday during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI.
Panthers linebacker Haason Reddick had accused Jones of making “a dirty play” and chastised officials for not blowing their whistles. There was no penalty on the play, despite pleas from Carolina coach Matt Rhule and other Panthers on the sideline.
On third and 4, with the ball on Carolina’s 47-yard line, Burns sacked Jones from behind, knocking the ball loose. As Burns was getting up to pursue the ball, Jones, lying on his back, grabbed Burns’s right ankle and pulled him back to the ground. Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu ended up recovering the fumble.
Burns stayed down on the field after the play before limping off with the assistance of medical trainers. He returned to the game and played 76 percent of the defense’s snaps.
According to Rhule, Burns sprained his ankle and will undergo an MRI to determine the severity.
“That was some b.s. on Mac Jones’s part,” Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson said Monday. “Hopefully, they fine him or something like that. We don’t need that in this league, if we all claim we’re brothers and part of this NFL shield. We don’t need that, trying to hurt another player.”
Jones maintained he had no malicious intent and called the sequence “a bang-bang play.”
“After I got hit pretty hard, I didn’t know exactly what was going on,” he said. “I thought [Burns] had the ball. It was my job to make the tackle. That was pretty much it. Obviously when you get up, you see the ball was actually down the field a little bit more.”
The league office will take a look at what happened as part of its weekly review process. Jones will know by Saturday whether he has been fined.
“Hopefully, they see it how I saw it in the game, and they don’t look too much more into it, because that’s what it was,” Jones said.
Going the distance
Sunday marked just the second time this season that all five offensive linemen played the entire game for the Patriots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn, right tackle Michael Onwenu, center David Andrews, left guard Ted Karras, and right guard Shaq Mason each played 100 percent of the offense’s snaps.
After a rocky start, the performance of the offensive line has improved in recent weeks. The unit has been able to build some consistency, using the same starters for three straight games now.
Against the Panthers, Jones was sacked twice, including once when he fumbled. On the strip sack, Burns blew past Wynn, who has struggled to hold his ground at points this season. Wynn also was whistled for a false start in the first quarter. He is the most penalized Patriot this season, with five flags accepted against him.
Some other notes after looking at the snap counts from Patriots-Panthers …
▪ For the second straight week, rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore led his position group with 40 snaps, 68 percent of the team’s total. Barmore’s role has increased each week, and his progress earned significant praise from coach Bill Belichick.
“He’s worked extremely hard,” Belichick said Sunday. “I’ve got to give that kid a lot of credit. He comes in early; he stays late. He works on his flexibility, his strength, his technique. He’s really applied himself, and he’s just gotten better and better every week in the running game, in the passing game.”
Belichick shouted out Barmore’s use of his hands as well as his recognition of plays. In the second quarter, with the ball on New England’s 21-yard line, Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold had running back Christian McCaffrey wide open in the end zone. But after Darnold set up and released the ball, Barmore put his hand up and deflected the pass. The Panthers had to settle for a field goal.
“He’s done a good job for us and he’s a big man,” Belichick said.
▪ After missing two days of practice with an illness, starter J.C. Jackson logged his fewest number of snaps played (38, 64 percent) this season. Joejuan Williams helped give Jackson a break, coming in for 29 snaps, 49 percent of the defense’s total.
Jackson still had himself a day, allowing just one catch in coverage and intercepting two passes. Darnold had a 2.8 passer rating when targeting Jackson.
“I felt great, especially with the rotations keeping me fresh,” Jackson said. “Taking me out on early downs and putting me back in critical third-down situations, that’s how I stayed fresh because I missed practice. I love that rotation.”
▪ Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson logged just 17 snaps, 27 percent of the team’s total. He certainly made the most of his playing time, amassing 106 yards from scrimmage on his 13 touches. Stevenson’s performance is a strong case for him to be active every week.
▪ Just four snaps for practice-squad receiver Kristian Wilkerson, who was temporarily elevated to the active roster for the game. Wilkerson was not targeted.
In the third quarter, Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins intercepted Darnold’s pass just 0.17 seconds after the ball was released, according to Next Gen Stats. That’s the lowest amount of air time on an interception since 2016, when Next Gen Stats began tracking that data … Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona is the team’s “Salute to Service” award nominee. The award, presented annually by USAA and the NFL, honors a player who demonstrates “an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community.” Cardona is a graduate of the US Naval Academy … After returning home from Carolina, Barmore, Mason, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, linebacker Anfernee Jennings, and nose tackle Davon Godchaux all dined at Arya Trattoria in the North End … With the win over the Panthers, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has a win over all other 31 teams in his tenure with the Patriots.