FOXBORO — New England Patriots rookie return specialist Marcus Jones has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week by the NFL for his performance in the team’s Week 11 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Locked in a 3-3 tie deep into the fourth quarter of what had been an ugly divisional matchup between the two rivals, Jones readied himself to return a punt from Jets punter Braden Mann. The ex-Houston Cougar fielded the punt and returned it 84-yards to break the tie and seal the 10-3 victory for the Pats.
It was the first punt returned for a touchdown in the NFL this season. Jones' touchdown also marked the second-latest game-winning punt return touchdown in regulation since 1970, trailing only ex Philadelphia Eagles’ return specialist DeSean Jackson, who did so with no time remaining in their victory over the New York Giants on Dec. 19, 2010.
Jones, New England’s third-round draft selection (85 overall), has helped to resurrect what had been a dismal return game in 2021. Through the Patriots first ten games, Jones has run back 17 punts (283 yards) and 14 kicks (340 yards) in nine games played. He also leads the league in averaging 24.3 yards-per-kick return and 16.6 yards-per-punt-return.
The rookie’s elite return skills have made him a prominent Patriots in short order. For a team which places a premium on special teams prowess, New England clearly saw a great deal of potential on Jones from his time at Houston. In 2020, Jones was named to the first team, All-American Athletic Conference as a return specialist after leading the nation with 337 yards on 17 punt returns.
He is also no stranger to late-game heroics.
During his redshirt senior season in 2021, Jones returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 17 seconds left against 19th-ranked SMU to win the game 44–37. To cap off the season he won the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player. He was also selected to the Associated Press All-America first team as a defensive back. He also won AAC Special Teams Player of the Year along with being named first team All-AAC as a return specialist and second team All-AAC as a cornerback.
It is the second time the Patriots earned an AFC Special Teams honor after a Jets win in 2022. K Nick Folk earned the award after kicking five field goals in the 22-17 victory at the Jets on Oct. 30.
Jones is the fourth Patriots rookie to earn an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award since 2000, joining Jake Bailey (Week 3 and 11 in 2019), Bethel Johnson (Week 13 in 2003) and Laurence Maroney (Week 7 in 2006).
It is the third time in 2022 that the Patriots have been awarded a player of the week honor. In addition to Jones and Folk, linebacker Matthew Judon was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 2-sack performance in the Patriots win vs. Detroit in Week 5.
New England will travel to the Midwest, as they take on the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving night. Kickoff is set for Thursday, Nov 24 at 8:20 p.m. from U.S. Bank Stadium.
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