3 Takeaways from Patriots' Week 11 Win
The New England Patriots have been on a steady rise since their 1-3 start to the season. They've lost only once since then—in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys—and have rattled off five wins in a row.
Last week's 45-7 beatdown of the Cleveland Browns was impressive, but Thursday night's shutout of the Atlanta Falcons might have been even more so. The Patriots offense wasn't in sync in this one, but the game never appeared to be in doubt.
Good teams find ways to win when things aren't clicking. The Patriots dominated. The 25-0 victory doesn't necessarily mean that these Patriots are a great team, but it suggests that they're getting there. With the Buffalo Bills' loss Sunday, New England now holds first place in the AFC East.
Here's what we learned during the Patriots' big Week 11 win.
Mac Jones Is the Perfect Quarterback for the Patriots
Mac Jones has been the best of this year's crop of rookie quarterbacks—which is saying something, considering he was the fifth signal-caller taken in Round 1. He might not wow with raw numbers, but Jones has been poised, efficient and accountable.
On Thursday, he completed 84.6 percent of his passes for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Jones was open about his one costly mistake.
"It was just a bad throw and a poor read," Jones said, per Yahoo Sports' Henry McKenna.
Jones has a long way to go before being compared to Tom Brady, but his approach to the game thus far has been very Brady-like. The Alabama product has provided the offense with accuracy, a strong work ethic and a team-first mentality.
In short, Jones has been perfect for Bill Belichick, the Patriots and Josh McDaniels' offense. New England has given him a prime opportunity to succeed, but Jones has been a big part of why the Patriots are sitting at 7-4.
New England Is Just Fine at Wide Receiver
It was fair to wonder if the Patriots had enough at the wide receiver position heading into the season. 2019 first-round pick N'Keal Harry continues to underwhelm, and 2020 receiving-leader Jakobi Meyers did not find the end zone last season.
The Patriots' big pass-catching additions in free agency were tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
It's now becoming clear, though, that the relatively unheralded additions of Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne have given New England a functional receiving corps. There may not be a No. 1 target on the roster, but one isn't necessarily needed in this offense.
On Thursday, Bourne, Agholor and Meyers each caught at least four passes and had at least 39 receiving yards. They did more than enough to beat a scrappy Falcons defense—practically the only thing keeping Atlanta in the game.
For the season, Bourne, Agholor and Meyers each have at least 396 receiving yards. Bourne and Meyers have both topped the 500-yard mark, and all three wideouts have scored touchdowns. The Patriots, meanwhile, ranked ninth in passing yards per attempt heading into Sunday.
With Henry and Smith rounding out the receiving corps, the Patriots have themselves a dangerous group.
J.C. Jackson Deserves to Be in the Conversation for Defensive Player of the Year
The Atlanta defense kept the Falcons in the game for most of four quarters. The Patriots defense took them out of it. Atlanta's final four possessions ended in interceptions, and those led to 13 Patriots points and a kneel-down.
Kyle Van Noy's pick-six was the punctuation mark on the evening, but cornerback J.C. Jackson was the one who ended Atlanta's bid to not be shut out. With the Falcons near midfield, Jackson read Matt Ryan's throw and stepped in front of Olamide Zaccheaus for the pick.
Jackson's interception might not make many highlight reels, but it was the latest in a series of strong plays made by the fourth-year cornerback. Jackson has now snagged six interceptions, has a defensive touchdown and an impressive 15 passes defended.
Opposing quarterbacks have posted a collective passer rating of just 40.7 when targeting Jackson in coverage.
Players like Myles Garrett (13 sacks) and Trevon Diggs (eight interceptions) may be the early front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year, but Jackson deserves to be in that conversation. He's taken over Stephon Gilmore's role as New England's shutdown corner, and he's a big reason why the defense is on a roll.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.