For years, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has defended himself, his team, and his quarterback from charges they are cheats. From Spygate to Deflategate, it seems like the Pats are always in the middle of some sort of scandal of their own making. In 2021, the QB may be different, but the drama remains the same. An opponent is accusing rookie Mac Jones of purposefully trying to injure a Carolina Panthers player, and Belichick came to Jones’ defense in a very Belichik-ian way.
Replays show what looks like Mac Jones intentionally trying to injure Carolina Panthers player Brian Burns
Mac Jones and the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers 24-6 in Week 9 to take the team’s record to 5-4.
The talk surrounding the team should be about how it is now not only a playoff contender but possibly in position to win the AFC East after a shocking Buffalo Bills loss. These are Bill Belichick’s Patriots, though, so, of course, there is extracurricular nonsense involving the QB.
In this case, it’s not about the QB cheating to gain an edge. It’s actually worse than that.
With less than a minute left in the first quarter of a scoreless game, Panthers DE Brian Burns came around the left edge and sacked Jones from behind. The ball came out, and the Panthers recovered the fumble on the Patriots’ 33-yard line.
When the play was over, Burns was on the ground writhing in pain.
Replays show that Jones grabbed Burns by the ankle after the sack, twisting and rolling on top of it. Burns left the game with the hurt ankle but did return. Later in the game, he aggravated the injury. Now the Panthers are waiting on the results of an MRI to determine the severity of his “sprained ankle,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
After the game, while the focus should have been on the best game of Jones’ young career, all the talk was about the “dirty” play.
Bill Belichick stuck up for Jones after the Panthers Haason Reddick called his rookie QB a dirty player
When the dust settled on the Patriots win, the headlines on social media were about Mac Jones’ ankle-grabbing more than anything else.
In his postgame press conference, Panthers linebacker Haasan Reddick didn’t hold back when sharing his thoughts on Jones and the play that injured his teammate:
I definitely thought it was a dirty play. I actually saw and witnessed the play while it was happening. As I was running, seen him over there. First, it looked like he was trying to trip or kick Burns, then next thing you know, I saw him tugging on Burns’ ankle. I thought it was completely dirty. Hopefully, it’s something that the league addresses.
Hassan Reddick on Mac Jones
Carolina head coach Matt Rhule also weighed in on the play. While he didn’t condemn Jones in the same manner as Reddick, he did say, “I have no idea what was in his brain” when the young QB twisted his player to the ground.
The day after the game, Belichick appeared on Boston radio’s The Greg Hill Show on WEEI. Co-host Courtney Cox asked the coach what he thought of the play. After an awkward silence, Belichick simply responded, “I think he thought Burns had the ball.”
When pressed on the issue, there was more awkward silence before the six-time Super Bowl champ said once again, “I think he thought he had the ball,” followed by, you guessed it… more awkward silence.
The rookie QB’s ‘dirty’ play overshadowed the Patriots big win
Controversy always seems to follow Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots and, at times, overshadows their incredible accomplishments. This is absolutely the case following the Mac Jones “dirty” play.
In the days following Week 9, the ankle-twisting conversation is front and center, while the team’s overall performance should be the story.
Jones didn’t have a particularly good game. He was just 12-of-18 for 139 yards with a touchdown, and he threw an interception to former Patriot All-Pro Stephon Gilmore.
The Pats dominated on the ground, though. The three-headed running back monster of Rhamondre Stevenson (10 carries, 62 yards), Brandon Bolden (eight carries, 54 yards), and Damian Harris (15 carries, 30 yards, and a TD) led Belichick’s squad to 24 points.
The defense was dominant as well. The unit sacked Carolina QB Sam Darnold once and picked him off three times, flustering the signal-caller who once said he was “seeing ghosts” when playing the Patriots with the New York Jets.
After this dominating performance, the Patriots now stand at 5-4, just a half-game behind the first place, 5-3 Buffalo Bills. With two games left against Josh Allen and company (in Weeks 13 and 16), the team is in position to win the division and make the playoffs after many believed that 2021 would be another lost season without Tom Brady and while breaking in a rookie quarterback.
It surely is a shame to most Patriots fans that the national media is focusing on ankle twists as opposed to their team’s surprising season.
That said, it’s probably exactly how Bill Belichick likes it.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference