Ronald Jones II took the handoff from Tom Brady and hit the gap, hoping to at least get a few yards to keep the Buccaneers ahead of the chains. Of course, the idea of breaking a big run and taking it to the house was an option, as well.
Instead, Demarcus Lawrence punched the ball out as Jones tried to work around the pile, causing the first forced fumble of 2021. A group of Cowboys and Buccaneers dove on the ball in an attempt to recover the fumble, but it was Dallas who came out with the ball.
That carry put Jones at four carries for 14 yards on the night. And that's where things stayed for the rest of the game because Jones never saw the field again.
Gettin pulled from the game isn't anything new for Bruce Arians, Jones, and the Bucs. There have been several instances of this over the last couple of years, but Jones always returned to the action later on.
So, what happened this time around?
“Ro was running really, really well until the fumble,” Arians told reporters on Friday. “Then he struggled mentally to get over it. That was too big of a game and not be totally focused. So Leonard [Fournette] got the rest of the way.”
Arians has a point. The mental aspect of the game is a major component when it comes to winning games and you can argue it's more important than the physical aspect. Just ask a player like Brady, who's mental edge is what made him who he is over the last 22 years. Mental struggles are an issue and not something you want to see in a four-year veteran who has a prominent role on the team.
Arians didn't specify what tipped him off in regard to Jones' mental state, but there were a few afterward shots of a dejected-looking Jones sitting on the bench during the broadcast. Body language goes a long way when it comes to evaluating a person's mood, so that does align with Arians' statement, however at the same time, it's not completely telling.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how the Bucs move forward with Jones. My guess is they will rely upon him as initially intended, but that leash is as short as ever. How he responds next week will go a long way in determining his 2021 season.
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