Mac Jones turned the ball over twice in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Panthers, but Carolina could only turn the rookie’s miscues into six points and the rest of the half saw the Patriots find more offensive success.
Damien Harris ran for a score and Jones hit tight end Hunter Henry for another one with 24 seconds left in the half to give the Patriots a 14-6 lead over the home team. Jones is 11-of-13 for 121 yards overall, but one of the incompletions was an interception by former Patriot Stephon Gilmore and Jones was stripped on a sack by Brian Burns.
Jones should have been penalized on the latter play for grabbing Burns’ ankle and keeping him from pursuing the loose ball. Burns was rolled to the ground by the quarterback and was checked out in the sideline medical tent before returning to the game.
The Panthers couldn’t do more with the turnovers because their offense has failed to spark in either phase. Christian McCaffrey has six carries for 26 yards in his return from a hamstring injury, but he’s split time with the less effective Chuba Hubbard. Sam Darnold is playing after being listed as questionable with a right shoulder injury, but has gone just 5-of-12 for 32 yards.
Carolina will need to improve on that front and they’ll need to sharpen a run defense that’s allowed the Patriots to pick up 105 yards on 20 carries.