By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Jonathan Jones showed a lot of good qualities when he chased down Browns running back Nick Chubb and punched the ball out of his hands, saving a touchdown and helping turn the ball back to the Patriots in one fell swoop. But the one thing he could not make the play without was hustle.
That was the magic word in describing Jones’ instantly memorable play on Sunday in the Patriots’ 27-13 win over the Browns. It echoed another famous chase-down moment in Patriots history, when Ben Watson ran almost the entire length of the field to force a fumble out of bounds on Hall of Famer Champ Bailey in the 2005 divisional round.
Except the Broncos scored anyway, and ultimately won that game to end (technically) one of the Patriots’ worst seasons under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
If the 2019 Patriots end up winning it all? And they do it on the back of a dominant, potentially historic defense? Jones’ forced fumble on Chubb, despite happening in Week 8 instead of the playoffs, should go down as one of the defining plays of the season and a more impactful play than Watson’s.
“It was just hustling,” Jones said. “This whole defense hustles, flying around to the ball, and everybody is accountable to each everybody. So when we’re out there we give 100 percent effort to get to the ball.”
You can quibble the details of the two plays and which one would carry more importance in a vacuum. But as Jones homed in on Chubb, Watson saw what everyone saw in him when he ran down Bailey in that playoff game.
“You just don’t give up on a play, that’s all. You don’t give up on a play,” said Watson. “You never know if your effort is going to pay off in a turnover or not. That’s what we are paid to do, keep chasing until the whistle. I couldn’t believe it because Nick had good ball security, he had it high and tight and sometimes that happens. As ball carriers you know those guys are always coming and they do a really good job of punching it out.”
Even when the Patriots defense has a bad breakdown, they’re the ones that end up with the ball. They refuse to stop making big plays.
And if they end up winning the Super Bowl, Jones’ strip of Chubb may go down as the most famous play of them all.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.