Dolphins Patriots Football

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Mac Jones didn't want to save the football from his first career NFL touchdown pass. He never got a second.

The New England Patriots rookie completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a TD on Sunday in his NFL debut. He was driving the Patriots to a potential go-ahead score in the final four minutes when Damien Harris fumbled at the Miami 9, and the Dolphins held on for the 17-16 victory.

"It starts with me," a downcast Jones told reporters afterward. "It doesn't go all on Damien. There's a lot of things I could have done to be better, to not even be in that situation, take some bigger chunk plays."

A first-round draft pick after leading Alabama to the 2020 national championship, Jones was elevated to the Patriots' No. 1 QB when 2015 NFL MVP -- and 2020 New England starter -- Cam Newton was cut at the end of training camp.

That made Jones the first rookie start the season opener at quarterback for the Patriots since No. 1 overall pick Drew Bledsoe in 1993. More importantly, it left Jones with the responsibility of leading the six-time Super Bowl champions back to prominence after a fiasco of a first season without Tom Brady.

Before the game, Jones said, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told him: "Just enjoy the day. You'll never play a rookie year opening day again."

"But that's not how I wanted the day to go," Jones said.

"Definitely wasn't good enough, starting with me," he added. "We lost, so it's not good enough."

Jones made one boneheaded play, turning a sack into a fumble when he spiked the ball backward on the Patriots opening drive. He was rescued when Jonnu Smith recovered for a mere 13-yard loss.

But Jones seemed to shake off the rookie jitters from there. In the second quarter, he led the Patriots on a seven-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor and gave them a 10-7 led.

Afterward, Agholor tried to give Jones the ball, but he quickly flipped it away.

"It's not really about me," Jones said. "It doesn't really matter. It was one touchdown. We've got to score more. It's not like the game was over right there. We've got to do better in the red zone and get more touchdowns, and we will."

The Patriots outgained Miami 393 total yards to 259, with an edge in both rushing and passing. They had 24 first downs to Miami's 16, were twice as good on third-down efficiency and dominated the time of possession 36:43 minute to 23.17.

But then there were the penalties and turnovers.

New England was flagged eight times for 84 yards. And it committed four turnovers, including Harris' fumble with 3:35 to play. On the sideline, Jones turned into a cheerleader for the defense to come up with a stop and give him another chance.

That's a side he hadn't shown as a rookie in his first training camp.

"I'm going to try and be more vocal — and I am a vocal person, but it's kind of a new situation," he said. "I can be better. But it starts with me. The defense, I try and hype them up and stuff, and they played great. We've got to do better on offense. So we'll do that."

Former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa was impressed.

"I was happy for him," the Dolphins quarterback said. "It being his first real game with a crowd like this, I thought he made some really good throws. And their execution on third down I think was really good. Mac looks like he fits perfectly into their offense and their system."

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