The surging New England Patriots thoroughly dominated the Carolina Panthers on Sunday to the shocking tune of 24-6. It served as the Patriots’ third consecutive victory and placed them just a half-game back of the AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately, the game was tainted by a rather controversial moment, one that has led to a larger talking point than the actual result of the game itself.
As the first quarter was winding down, Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns came screaming off the edge and delivered a vicious blow to unexpecting Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. It went down as a strip-sack and the Panthers recovered the live ball. The controversy comes into play at the conclusion of the play, where the Patriots' rookie signal-caller was caught hanging onto and pulling Burns' ankle for dear life. As always, the internet keeps the receipts.
Burns suffered an injury on the play and missed several snaps on Carolina's next defensive series. Burns was able to eventually return, but exited the game for a second time late in the fourth quarter, although it's unclear if his second absence was related to the injury suffered earlier on the controversial play.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick defended his quarterback's actions throughout his post-game press conference.
"I think he [Jones] thought Burns had the ball," Belichick said.
It's impossible to determine what Jones' true intentions were. Only he knows the truth, but from our vantage point, it's plausible Jones was simply trying to prevent Burns from executing the scoop-and-score.
While Jones' true objective will remain a mystery, several members of the Panthers' organization have voiced their displeasure with Jones’ actions post-game. Panthers outside linebacker Haason Reddick was visibly upset and was quick to share his true feelings with reporters when given an opportunity to do so.
“I thought it was completely dirty. Hopefully it’s something the league addresses,” Reddick said.
The Panthers and Patriots will now await word from the league office regarding the fine or punishment for Jones, should any apply in the eyes of their law. The Panthers will also hope to receive positive news on Burns' availability going forward. Rhule could ill-afford to lose his star pass rusher that has compiled an impressive 22 sacks in his first 40 career appearances. It would especially be unfortunate if Burns is lost for any period of time due to a questionable play and decision by a young quarterback who is still earning the respect of his peers.