Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe replaced Mac Jones on Monday to cheers from the New England Patriots crowd It was hysteria as Zappe led the Patriots to a 14-10 lead with touchdowns on his first two drives. Almost everyone with a social media account proclaimed that Jones would never play over Zappe again.
That lasted about an hour. Maybe less. The sugar high from Zappe’s first two drives wore off quickly, and all that was left at the end was a surprising and disappointing 33-14 loss at home to the. Chicago Bears.
The Bruins blew out the Patriots. Zappe got hot and then got cold. New England did not score in the second half. Chicago scored the final 23 points of the game. The Bruins’ season high for points in a game this season was 23. They averaged 15.5 points per game and more than doubled that on Monday.
The Patriots are 3-4. Now they have a quarterback conflict that Bill Belichick didn’t explain postgame. The Patriots head coach declined to name a starter going forward and said Jones’ interception that preceded his benching did not play a role in his decision.
“I told the quarterbacks we’re going to play both,” Belichick told reporters. “So we did.”
Pressed on whether Jones’ benching was performance-related, Belichick had this to say:
“It wasn’t,” he continued. “You can write whatever you want to write. That wasn’t what it was.”
What a roller coaster of a night for Patriots fans.
Mac Jones sat down in second quarter
Jones returned from a high ankle sprain after missing three games. The Patriots made sure to leak to the media that there was no discussion about a quarterback. Jones would start when he was ready. Jones started on Monday.
Jones didn’t look ready, though. He was 3-of-6 for 13 yards after just over a quarter. He threw a miserable interception, floating a pass into coverage that safety Jaquan Brisker picked off. That’s when Zappe walked in and the crowd roared.
It looked a little like we were watching something big happen on Monday Night Football. Zappe immediately threw a 30-yard touchdown to Jacob Meyers after a broken coverage by the Bears. 43-yard pass to DeVante Parker set up another landing. If you’ve been on social media, you’ve heard a lot about how this was another Drew Bledsoe/Tom Brady moment. Patience is not a social media strong suit.
The Patriots did not score again. The offensive line couldn’t protect Zappe. Zappe didn’t make anything else happen. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense let the Bears pile up points.
By about 10:45 pm Eastern time, about an hour and a half after the world was convinced Zappe never gave up the quarterback of the Patriots, the Bears took a 33-14 lead. The failure was on.
Jones struggled. Zappe didn’t do much. The Patriots fell below .500 with a bad loss. now what?
Bears dominate in victory
Give the Bears credit for ruining the Zappe party.
Chicago came in 2-4, and just got an unspeakably ugly home loss to the Commanders from Washington on Thursday night in Week 6. When the Patriots had the momentum with a 14-10 lead, it felt like the Bruins were going to be rolled.
That didn’t happen. Justin Fields continued to make plays, especially with his legs. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Herbert, when he delivered the ball-side weapon just as he was being crushed by two Patriots defenders, changed the tone of the game. A fumble on a jet-swing pass right before the half was recovered by the Bruins. Chicago got a gift field goal and led 20-14. The Patriots never recovered.
Zappe wasn’t terrible but after his hot start he didn’t do much. Zappe finished 14-of-22 for 185 yards. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter after the Bruins took a 19-point lead. It wasn’t the kind of performance that definitively ends the quarterback question, though Jones’ struggles could factor into the decision.
New England did well enough to get back to 3-3. Things really looked up when they took the lead on Monday night. That all changed quickly.