HOUSTON -- Two rookie quarterbacks took center stage at NRG Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Neither played terrible, but in the end there can only be one winner.
Mac Jones and the New England Patriots prevailed thanks to a second-half offensive revival in a 25-22 win over the Houston Texans.
Jones, a first-round pick from Alabama, played his game his way. He worked in the small-ball aspect. Controlling the clock and setting up scores was what Patriots coach Bill Belichick asked of his young quarterback.
“Talented kid, talented kid," Texans safety Justin Reid said. "He’s in his rookie season. He’s going to learn and continue to get better."
Jones began the game 7 of 7 passing for 122 yards. He helped New England march down the field for a 1-yard touchdown run from Damien Harris early in the second quarter.
Jones' lone mistake on the afternoon came on the opening drive in the second half. He tried to force a throw into double coverage to Nelson Agholor. Instead, Texans safety Lonnie Johnson would claim his second interception of the season.
Houston would capitalize with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Mills to Chris Conley, extending its lead by 13.
“I just didn't throw the ball very well," Jones said of the play. "Protection was fine. It was just a bad throw, and I didn't step into it like I know how to do."
The thing about Jones going back to Alabama is he hardly ever loses his rhythm. Last season, he set an FBS record in completion rating (77.4) on his way to leading the Crimson Tide to their 18th national title.
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New England totaled four scoring drives in the second half -- three field goals and touchdown through the air. Jones and tight end Hunter Henry were in sync during the third quarter.
Jones found Henry in the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown, tying the game at 22. It wasn't just poor coverage, but rather a standout pass from the rookie.
From there, Jones would lead Houston down the field once more for a 15-play, 84 yard drive that ate up seven minutes. New England converted a 21-yard field goal from Nick Folk, and only left Houston 17 seconds to match.
Two plays later, comeback complete. Jones finished 23-30 for 231 yards, one touchdown and one pick.
“Mac gave it to us all day,” Belichick said. “He moved the ball. I thought he made a lot of good decisions. There were some checks that he had to make that he made throughout the day.”
Many believed that due to the matchup, Patriots' offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would open the playbook for his young quarterback. Instead, the Pats played to Jones' strength.
It ended a two-game losing streak in front of a hostile crowd.
"The Patriots did a great job picking him, and they’re going to develop him," Reid said. "He’s going to be a great quarterback for them for years to come."
Houston will hit the road for the next two weeks, starting with the Indianapolis Colts.