Bengals cornerback Eli Apple was none too pleased with Patriots quarterback Mac Jones after the Bengals held on for a 22-18 win in Foxborough on Saturday.
Apple, the former Giants first-round pick, took issue with Jones diving low at his legs as Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt was returning a fumble in the fourth quarter that was eventually called back.
“Of course I did (notice it). He tripped me,” Apple told NESN.com. “I thought it was a dirty play. He’s done that before, I’ve seen it.”
The play was ultimately ruled an incomplete pass and intentional grounding by Jones, who threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers to bring the Patriots within four. Rhamondre Stevenson later lost a crucial fumble on first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 5-yard line with less than a minute left, and Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the turnover.
The 24-year-old Jones was also accused by then-Panthers linebacker Haason Reddick of committing a “completely dirty” play during a Patriots game against Carolina on Nov. 7, 2021, when Jones, while on the ground after losing a fumble, grabbed at Brian Burns’ ankle.
Jones, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 draft, finished Saturday’s loss 21-for-33 with 240 yards and two touchdowns. In 12 games this season, Jones has 2,550 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was a Pro Bowler as a rookie last season after throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The loss hurt the Patriots’ playoff hopes as they dropped to 7-8. The Chargers and Dolphins, each 8-6 with games still to play in Week 16, occupy the last two wild-card spots in the AFC.
The Bengals improved to 11-4 and remain in control of the AFC North. Their flight home on Saturday made an emergency landing at JFK after an engine problem. They switched planes to return to Cincinnati.
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