FOXBOROUGH — It’s always an adventure with rookie Cyrus Jones. The Patriots’ second-round pick of the 2016 draft led the nation in punt returns for touchdowns (four) as a senior at Alabama last season, but that big-play potential is still largely unrealized in New England.
Jones played in the Patriots’ first five games this season, but was a healthy inactive for the next four after being ejected for fighting in a blowout win against the Browns. Sunday marked his return, and the roller coaster continued.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with New England trailing by a point, Jones fielded a bouncing kickoff on the 2-yard line and used his blockers to bolt down the sideline. As he approached midfield, though, he collided with both Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka and safety Steven Terrell and the ball popped loose.
Part-time rugby player Nate Ebner, in perfect position for the recovery, fell on the ball to save Jones.
Jones also returned two punts for 8 yards, and had a nice 21-yard scamper that was called back because of a clipping penalty on Justin Coleman.
“I think Cyrus, along with a lot of our young players, they really have a great mentality,” said special teams ace Matthew Slater. “Football as a rookie in the NFL is not always easy. Things are going to go good, and things are going to go bad.
“I think he’s handled himself with a great deal of maturity, and a lot of guys would’ve gone in the tank, possibly, under this set of circumstances. But I think he’s worked his way, he’s earned everything he’s gotten, and it was good to see him make some positive plays.”
Despite the fumble, Jones’s 43-yard return gave New England its best field position of the game, and therein lies the conflict. Field position was crucial in an eventual 31-24 loss, but is the big-play potential worth the errors?
“In a game like that, field position is critical,” Slater said. “We have a guy back there that’s capable of hitting the home run, and to pose that threat is really big for your football team. Hopefully, we can keep him going. He’s got a lot of talent, and we have a lot of faith in him.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, a former coach of the Patriots, got in a bit of a dig at the Gillette Stadium crowd on Monday.
“It’s not a great place,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle radio. “They weren’t nuts. It’s because they’re so used to winning. There was a time when they kicked their last field goal to go ahead, and it was like a round of applause for the nice effort.
“Gosh, our guys would be going berserk. We’re so hungry for it.”
The Patriots, unsurprisingly, disagreed.
“They’ve got the 12th man, which is obviously a great fan base, but we enjoy our fan base,” Slater said. “I would have to say that I appreciate what our fans did for us, and that I’m happy to be part of a good environment.”
Not ready yet
Dion Lewis was added to the 53-man roster last week after missing a calendar year with a left ACL tear, but he was inactive Sunday. According to coach Bill Belichick, the running back is healthy and just getting up to speed. “I mean, we didn’t activate him until Saturday, but he wouldn’t have been on the injury report,” Belichick said. “I mean, when a player hasn’t played for a year, then they haven’t played for a year.” . . . On WEEI, Tom Brady said he’s not talking about politics anymore after the quarterback’s friendship with president-elect Donald Trump had become a topic of conversation. “I’ve got other things to worry about,” he said. “Just speaking with my family, it’s a bad idea.”
Everett Cook can be reached at email@example.com.