Patriots vs. Giants: Bailey Zappe bright spot in preseason opener loss – NBC Sports Boston

Patriots vs. Giants: Bailey Zappe bright spot in preseason opener loss - NBC Sports Boston

The New England Patriots started their preseason with a last-second loss to the New York Giants on Thursday night.

With a quarterback Mac Jones and most of the Patriots’ starters sitting, the preseason opener was a chance to see what the rookies bring to the table. It also gave a look at the players who could see their roles increase in the 2022 season.

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Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe capped an impressive drive late in the fourth quarter, giving New England the lead with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Davis Webb and the Giants had plenty of time to put together a game-winning drive. Graham Gano’s field goal sealed the win as time expired.

Here are some takeaways from the Pats’ 23-21 loss. They will host the Carolina Panthers in next Friday’s preseason game with kickoff set for 7pm ET.

Matt Patricia, Joe Judge split play calling duties

One of the biggest offseason intrigues for the Patriots was their decision to forgo naming an offensive coordinator to replace Josh McDaniels. Instead, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge split those duties during the spring and summer with Patricia named the Senior Football Adviser/Offensive Line Coach and Judge earning the title of Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks Coach.

The trend continued Thursday night as Patricia and Judge combined for offensive play-calling. Patricia called plays on offense to start the game with Brian Hoyer under center, then Judge took over after rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe entered the game.

As our Phil Perry pointed out, head coach Bill Belichick spent a lot of time with Zappe on the sidelines. With McDaniels out of the picture, we could see a lot more of Belichick working with his QBs throughout this season.

An up and down night for the defense

It was an unspectacular night for the Patriots defense, but there were some bright spots.

One of them was a forced fumble by cornerback Terrance Mitchell that caused a Giants turnover in the second quarter. Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler had the recovery.

The Patriots linebackers were the defensive stars. Third-year edge rusher Josh Uche sacked Giants QB Daniel Jones early on, and Anfernee Jennings put a huge hit on Jones on third down to force a field goal on the first drive of the game.

Mack Wilson, acquired in the offseason trade that sends Chase Winovich to the Cleveland Browns, flew all over the field with a team-high seven tackles. Another standout was rookie defensive tackle Sam Roberts, who contributed a handful of QB pressures including one that resulted in Uche’s sack.

Besides Mitchell’s forced fumble, it was a rough night for New England’s secondary. The group failed to take advantage of several passes deflected into the air that should have been easy interceptions. Joejuan Williams was burned for a touchdown, then was hit later in the game and required a facemask. Shaun Wade dropped a pick and had another potential INT bounce off his helmet.

Bailey Zappe has a successful debut

Bailey Zappe’s first game in a Patriots uniform got off to a shaky start, but the rookie fourth-round draft pick found his groove in the second half.

Zappe started the third quarter with a 36-yard completion to 2021 seventh-round wideout Tre Nixon (four catches, 81 yards).

The Zappe-Nixon connection was on display again a few plays later, this time for 32 yards. The drive ended with a touchdown for rookie running back Kevin Harris.

Zappe’s biggest fumble of the night came early in the fourth quarter when he had a pass deflected at the line and intercepted. He made up for that miscue late in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard TD pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey (six catches, 62 yards) that gave New England the lead.

The Houston Baptist/Western Kentucky product’s final stat line: 19/32 for 205 yards, one TD and one INT.

Tyquan Thornton makes a solid first impression

Tyquan Thornton, the Patriots’ second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, wasted no time making an impact in his unofficial pro debut.

Thornton scored the Patriots’ first points of the preseason with a touchdown reception to end the first quarter. The former Baylor standout showed off his impressive route running by fighting through a defensive holding penalty for the TD.

Thornton also showed off his quick release going for a deep ball from Brian Hoyer earlier, but the pass was batted away. Still, it was a good look at the speed and route-running ability he’s shown so far in camp.

Quiet night for the running game

Besides Harris’ goal line TDthe Patriots couldn’t get much of anything going on the ground.

Fourth-round rookie Pierre Strong Jr. had six carries for 25 yards. JJ Taylor added five carries for 16 yards, and Harris was ineffective outside of his TD as he tallied just nine yards on six carries. Damian Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson had the night off.

New England’s running game was a a positive takeaway from Tuesday’s practice because it began to find success with the outer zone scheme. We didn’t see much of that in the preseason opener, so that will be something to monitor going forward as Belichick continues with the new-look offense.

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