By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Even prior to Monday night’s game at home against the Ravens, rookie cornerback/return man Cyrus Jones had seemingly used up all of his chances to prove his trustworthiness — or lack thereof — to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.READ MORE: Dorchester Grandmother Killed By Stray Bullet While Sitting On Porch Identified As Delois Brown
But with an injured Danny Amendola and with a desire to limit the beating on Julian Edelman, Belichick was left without many choices.
So, Belichick sent out Jones, his top pick at No. 60 overall this past spring, to return a punt late in the second quarter. Jones decided to let it hit the turf and roll … and then he decided to run right toward the bounding ball and nearly make contact with it.
That mental error didn’t prove costly. Another one in the second half, however, did — in a big way.
With New England leading 23-3 midway through the third quarter, Jones again let a Sam Koch punt bounce off the turf, this time near the Patriots’ 20-yard line. Yet for one reason or another, Jones decided to continue advancing toward the ball, allowing it to clearly hit his foot.
Jones then lost a footrace with Baltimore’s Chris Moore to the loose ball, but the Ravens’ special teamer overshot the ball, leaving it lying on the turf, there for the taking.
But, again, for reasons unknown, Jones did not make an attempt to dive on the loose ball, thus allowing Moore to dive back from his knees and recover the ball on the Patriots’ 3-yard line.READ MORE: Water Conservation Urged In Massachusetts Amid Dry Spell
Two plays later, the Ravens were in the end zone, turning what had the makings of a blowout into a much more interesting game.
Making matters worse for Jones, he got beaten by Breshad Perriman up the left sideline for a 47-yard completion.
Jones’ special teams flub was compounded by Matthew Slater’s fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but considering Jones’ mistakes as a returner this year have become a regular occurrence, the rookie’s mistakes in the nationally televised game rightfully became the focus of many postgame questions in the locker room.
Though Jones himself departed the locker room before the media was able to speak to him after the Patriots’ 30-23 victory over the Ravens, his teammates expressed their support.
“Just keep on him, keep telling him, keep on coming out here playing,” defensive captain Devin McCourty said when asked what he can do to help Jones. “I’m not new to struggles. I’ve had struggles throughout my career here and you’ve just got to keep playing. It’s football. We have a tough football team. We have a lot of guys in that locker room that care about each other, great leadership. That’s what helped me through, was just keep playing when I had some struggles throughout my career. He’s a very talented player. He’s young. He’s a rookie. You’re going to have some bad plays out there. You’ve just got to keep playing. We’ll continue to count on him, keep on making sure his confidence stays high. I have no doubt that he’s going to rebound and keep playing for us and keep playing well for us.”
Julian Edelman, who made his bones as a return man early in his career and developed into one of the better punt returners and wide receivers in the NFL, was asked what type of advice he might be able to impart on the rookie out of Alabama.
“Just growing pains,” Edelman said. “You know, it’s going to make him tougher. So, you can do two things from this. You can put yourself in a tank, or you could work hard and get out of it. And Cy works hard. So I believe he’ll be working hard.”
Rather than speak directly about Jones, Belichick opted to speak about the mistakes of the team as a whole, refusing to put more fault on the rookie’s mistake than on Tom Brady’s careless interception.
“Well, we turned the ball over three times tonight. Three situations that all I would say are pretty preventable,” Belichick said, referencing Jones’ mistake, Slater’s fumble and Brady’s interception in the end zone. “We’ve just got to do a better job of taking care of the ball than we did tonight, and that’s everybody that handles it. So we’ll work on those things. We’ll work on it with everybody. It’s everybody’s responsibility to protect the ball who handles it and we’ve just got to do a better job of it. We’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to handle it better.”MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Reports 1,831 New COVID Cases, 8 Additional Deaths
Considering the emphasis the Patriots always place on ball security, the Patriots will almost assuredly be handling it better going forward. It just likely won’t involve Cyrus Jones for the foreseeable future.