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Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets certainly won’t win any style points. Offense was non-existent, and neither team found the end zone until there were five seconds left. Head coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots escaped with a 10-3 victory after Marcus Jones played the role of hero.

Jones returned a punt 84 yards after both offenses could only muster a field goal. New England won 10-3 for its third straight victory and the 14th consecutive win over the Jets. After the game, Jones was a hot topic of conversation, and Belichick offered a reason why Jones was able to come through when he did.

Bill Belichick explains how Marcus Jones has improved throughout the year

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second half against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on November 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Massachusetts. | Adam Glanzman/Getty Images.

Jones is a 5-foot-8 cornerback who was a third-round pick of the Patriots this year. He’s gotten on the field because of his special-teams play, and he came up big Sunday when the Patriots needed him most.

Whether the defenses were outstanding or the offenses were terrible, the special teams made the difference. In a game that seemed destined for overtime, Jones made sure it ended in regulation.

After Jets quarterback Zach Wilson failed to move the offense for the umpteenth time, the Jets punted the ball away with 26 seconds left in a 3-3 game. Instead of punting the ball out of bounds, the Jets kicked it in the field of play and, Jones took full advantage, returning the ball to the house for the game’s lone touchdown.

After the game, Belichick praised Jones’ improvement this season and gave credit to Patriots Hall of Famer Troy Brown. Brown is one of the franchise’s best at returning kicks, and he’s New England’s wide receiver and kick-return coach.

“I think Troy Brown has done a great job with him,” Belichick said after the game, as transcribed by NESN. “Where Marcus was when he got here and where he is now, they’re an ocean apart. Troy has really done a good job with the ball-handling, ball catching, making the first guy miss, ball security, setting up blocks, having vision on the ball, the gunner, playing the wind, so forth.”

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The Patriots have one offensive touchdown in their last two games and have relied on a strong defense to get them to 6-4. Despite no offensive touchdowns Sunday, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones said he thought the team moved the ball well in not-so-great weather conditions.

“We moved the ball pretty well today,” he said postgame. “That’s a fact.” 

The second-year quarterback has become much more like Belichick when it comes to press conferences. He doesn’t open up a whole lot, but when he does, he states the obvious.

“Every time you’re moving the ball towards the goal line, it’s good,” Jones said. “When you’re going backwards for whatever reason, it’s not.

“We want to be able to create those explosive plays, like the Damien (Harris) long run, for example, and then finish off those drives. We need to do that in the red zone. We need to do it in the open field. But it comes down to execution and watching the film and seeing what we can do better.”

The Patriots don’t have much time to savor the ugly win. They travel to Minnesota for a Thanksgiving night game against the 8-2 Vikings.