Mac Jones is getting knocked down, but he keeps getting up and giving the Patriots a chance to win

Mac Jones is getting knocked down, but he keeps getting up and giving the Patriots a chance to win ...

Mac Jones lay on his back in FOXBOROUGH. Literally.

An off-target throw, a pick-6 by the NFLs leading defender, and the loss of oblivion in the fourth quarter left the Patriots rookie prone on the Gillette Stadium turf. As images go, its a pretty fitting description of what happened Sunday at Gillette Stadium, an afternoon and evening of football filled with frustration and fueled by the regret of missing an opportunity.

In the aftermath of a 35-29 overtime loss to the Cowboys, maybe thats how the Patriots look now. They havent won a game at home this season, have won at least two with fans present in their last six tries, and are 2-4 after falling on the wrong end of slugfest that ended with Dak Prescotts knockout touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb.

Theyre stomping, still searching for that one crucial defensive stand, that single breakout offensive night, the all-around football style that once made Gillette a home of horrors for visiting teams. Close losses at home to Dallas, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, Miami, and New York all muddle together in some strange, unfamiliar mix, marked by an inability to get a crucial play at arguably crucial time.

Despite the disappointment of the recent close loss, there is still optimism in hanging with a Cowboys team that is rapidly emerging as one of NFL's most dangerous.

At the heart of that hope is a young quarterback who continues to demonstrate he can get up off the mat. Jones continues to exhibit a certain toughness and resilience, as well as incredibly accurate and anticipative skills, from pick-6 to 73-yard touchdown throw on his very next play, and from lying on the back to raising his arms to the sky. Its a combination that was particularly striking Sunday, when he went toe-to- toE with Prescott, not on the stat sheet, which the veteran dominated with 445 passing yards compared with Jones 229, but in ways that dont always show up in scores.

Like the ability to forget a terrible interception and throw slick touchdown on the next play.

JaWhaun Bentley, a teammate, said, Thats the grit he shows us on the field every week. Give him credit. Its great to see him develop. To see him make that play is impressive.

David Andrews, center, once said, How do you respond to him any better than he did?

Lets now move on to the crucial fourth-quarter sequence. Jones put the ball in with 2:42 to go, his team holding on to a 1-point lead, aka run-out-the-clock time. Jones and Co. needed a first down or two to secure what would have been their biggest win of the season, if not the type of mano-a-mano QB matchup hed almost scored against Tom Brady ages ago, only to see sunk subsequently courtesy of remark.

Jones second play of the drive ended up in the wrong hands, a throw intended for Kendrick Bourne that sailed wide and was picked off by Trevon Diggs, who sprinted 42 yards to the end zone. While the Cowboys breakout defensive star was busy tying an NFL record with an interception in his first six games to start the season, Jones was trying to get himself up off the ground and make his way to the sideline.

A missed 2-point conversion attempt put the score at 26-21 Dallas, with 2:21 left to play.

Jones, taking over at his 25, was about to change that. On his very next play.

Jones returned to Bourne and Diggs with one of the prettiest throws of his career, a double move route that took Bournes right in his stride and sent him streaking down the field and into the end zone.

Andrews stated, He has some guts. Talk about mental toughness. We wanted a play and we got one from him.

Thats the positive to be taken from this game. Moral victories dont count for a lot, but when os quarterback is young and learning, when the team is evolving and rebuilding, they can count.

When you look at the big picture, you never want to say youre close, and its difficult to do that, but the games that weve lost we've been two or three plays away, so I guess it's just how the NFL works, which I'm learning the hard way, Jones said. We just have to come back tomorrow, get up early, and come home.

Jones will be back in pain again an early strip-sack and fumble at the hands of Randy Gregory was one of the hardest hits hes taken as a pro, and after putting his team to.14-7 first-quarter lead, 'jones cooled off after the hit. But he kept on getting up. Even on his overtime possession, a shaky five-play drive that stalled at his 46-yard line, the 37-year-old was solid. Joness final third-and-3 defeat to Nelson Agholor was delayed by a clear facemask.

Its bang-bang, but when it s one-on-one, things happen, and it's not my job to throw the flag, Jones added. Ive just got to follow my rules and stick to my keys, and sometimes it goes your way and occasionally it doesnt. You cant blame the refs or anything for it. They call their game, and we have to follow our game plan. Its an it-is-what-it-Is situation, and we just have to move on and figure out how not to be in that position where we can be ahead and dont have the burden of being in this position.

More Patriots-Cowboys coverage of the game.

Chad Finn | Unconventional Review: The Patriots had to have Sunday, and as usual, they couldnt get it.

Ben Volin | Instant analysis The Patriots stayed in contact with the Cowboys, but the more talented and better team won.

Cowboys 35, Patriots 29 (OT) In a game of plot twists and dramatic lead changes, the Patriots were finally defeated by the Cowboys.

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Dak Prescott was praised by Bill Belichick after the Patriots loss to the Cowboys.

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Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.

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