Before Mac Jones was benched to start the 2nd half of the week-12 game he had thrown two more interceptions, bringing his season total to 12.
Tha coupled with only 10 TD passes this season was enough for many to want him watching the offense instead of leading it.
Bailey Zappe entered the game to start the 3rd quarter but didn't fair much better.
He went 9-of-14 with aninterception of his own, but did lead the team to its only score of the day when he drove the offense down the field on an 11-play 60-yard touchdown drive to open the 2nd half.
According reports on Wednesday, Mac Jones watched from the sideline as Zappe operated as the QB1 and Malik Cunningham as QB2 during the media portion of the practice. Does that mean Jones will be inactive for the game on Sunday and has been demoted to the 3rd-string QB? We'll all have to wait until shortly before kickoff to know for sure, because we do know that Belichick won't be providing that info to us until it's absolutely necessary or obvious.
After looking at the All-22 of Jones' two INT's this past weekend, I do find some fault that could be shared by some people other than Mac himself - probably Bill O'Brien.
On Mac's first INT on the team's 4th offensive drive at the end of the 1st-quarter, the team gains one first down before facing a 2-and-7 from their own 35-yard line.
As the two pictures below show, the Patriots come out with 12-personnel - one RB and two TE's. Rhamondre Stevenson is the lone back in the backfield. The Giants show pressure with five defenders on the line of scrimmage and the Middle Linebacker creeping up close to it.
The Patriots send TE Hunter Henry in motion left. The Giants don't move. This indicates zone coverage to Jones.
Below, the ball is snapped and the Giants send 6 defenders with their blitz, leaving 5 guys back in zone coverage.
The Patriots countered with a max protect play call, keeping 8 players in to block - including both TE's and Stevenson. This leaves only the two wide receivers running pass routes.
Now, this is where I start to take issue with the play concept.
So the Patriots are expecting the Giants to blitz here since they call a max-protect play and the Giants are known to blitz as often as any team in the league.
They were right, and they were perfectly prepaired for it with eight Patriots available to block the six Giant pass rushers. The problem is the receiver's routes.
Generally, when an offense sees the defense on a blitz the receivers will turn their routes into "hot routes", cutting short the depth of their routes in order to make themselves available for the QB quicker, since he is expected to be without a lot of time in front of the blitz. On this play the Patriots have all of the rushers accounted for, with adequate blockers to handle this blitz, so hot routes weren't really needed.
But, the routes themselves leave me wondering what Jones was supposed to do with the ball, other than throw it harmlessly into the bench area.
Below you can see how the top WR is running a deep middle post and the bottom WR is running a deep crossong route. The routes almost intersect a the same location right as Jones is starting to feel pressure from the left defensive end.
In the above picture you can see the WR cutting across the field at the 47-yard line. At this time it looks like Jones only has the trailing DB to worry about if he's to throw the ball to this receiver. But, the Giants, in zone coverage, were able to trick Jones into making that read.
Below you can see the defensive back that's trailing the deep post receiver passes the route off to the deep Safety and turns underneath to pick-up the other receiver running the crosser towards his side of the field. Jones has just released the throw.
He has now thrown the ball into triple coverage.
The DB that dropped coverage on the other receiver and ends-up in perfect position to intercept the overthrown pass by Jones.
The ball may have been thrown to a spot that Jones felt his receiver was the only one who would be able to make a play on that throw, but he was deceived by the zone coverage design by the defensive play call.
As quick as the Patriots thought they had got the matchup they wanted with their max-protect call against a 6-man blitz, the play flipped in favor of the defense when Mac was unable to pick-up the coverage design.
Now I'm not going to say that Mac is free from all blame on this interception, but the combination of the offensive play design and the perfect deception of this zone defense call sure made it hard for him to have success throwing the ball for positive yardage.
Having the two receivers in such close proximity to each other as they turned their heads to look back for the ball made Jones have to hold it that much longer, giving the pass rush time to eventually get pressure.
Again, I don't really like the route concept when these are the only two receivers to choose from.
On Jones' second interception, the Patriots had the ball at the Giants 23-yard line with 4:29 left in the first half. The score was 0-0 and it was 3rd-and-4.
The Patriots come out with a 4-receiver set and Pop Douglas in the backfield with Jones in the shotgun. The Giants have six men on the line of scrimmage, showing blitz.
If the Giants do blitz again the Patriots are not in a good formation to give Jones much time in the pocket. Guess what....the Giants blitzed.
But, it gets worse from there.
When the ball is snapped the middle linebacker doesn't blitz, but drops back into zone coverage. Douglas heads out of the backfield on a pass route over the middle of the field, leaving five offensive linemen to block the five pass rushers.
At this point it would have been nice to see Douglas chip the blitzing outside rusher before he headed out on his route, but at 5'9" and about 175lbs that probably wouldn't have gone well for Douglas.
The Left Tackle pays no attention to this wide edge rusher and leaves him free to sprint to the QB.
At this point, below you can also see that none of the other four receivers have their heads turned looking back at Jones for the ball. The blitzer is bearing-down on him and nobody is ready for the ball to be thrown. Why didn't any of them break-off their routes into hot routes after seeing the defense showing blitz before the ball was snapped?
To me this seems like bad coaching or bad play design, with a bad feel for what the defense might coma at them with.
Again, it's 3rd-down. Jones should have taken the sack and settled for the field goal.
But he tries to either throw a quick dangerous pass to Douglas or tried to just throw it at Douglas' feet and out of harms way. But he didn't notice linebacker Bobby Okereke dropping out of his blitz position and into coverage before it was too late.
In the above picture, Jones had just released the ball and the only receiver who is looking back towards the QB is Ju Ju Smith-Schuster, who is running an out-route in the middle of the field. Basically, Jones had nowhere to go with the ball.
The pressure was in his face and Okereke was reading the eyes of Jones who was looking to get the ball to Douglas out of the backfield. Jones threw it right to Okereke.
Bad throw. Bad decision.
But in my opinion he didn't get much help from either the personnel group or the play call. And again, why aren't the receivers coached to adjust their routes on a blitz read?
This play was doomed before the ball was snapped. Couldn't Belichick have seen the defensive formation against a 4-wide receiver set with a pint sized player in he backfield as jones' last line of defense and called a time out?
Both of these interceptions shouldn't happen, and a QB has to make better decisions, but it doesn't seem to me like he was put in the best situations to maximize the potential to succeed on these two plays.
Good luck to Zappe this weekend.