Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe replaced Mac Jones on Monday to the cheers of the New England Patriots crowd. It was hysterical when 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 on Zappe again.
It lasted about an hour. Perhaps less. The high sugar of Zappe’s first two practices dissipated quickly, and all that remained in the end was a surprising and disappointing 33-14 loss at home to the Chicago Bears.
The Bears crushed the Patriots. Zappe started hot then cooled down. New England did not score in the second half. Chicago scored the game’s final 23 points. The Bears’ season-high for points in a game this season was 23. They were averaging 15.5 points per game and more than doubled on Monday.
The Patriots are 3-4. Now they have a quarterback controversy that Bill Belichick didn’t clear up after the game. The Patriots head coach declined to name a starter to move forward and said Jones’ interception that preceded his benching played no role in his decision.
“I told the quarterbacks we were going to face them both,” Belichick told reporters. “So we did.”
Asked if Jones’ bench was performance related, Belichick said:
“That wasn’t it,” he continued. “You can write whatever you want to write. It’s not what it was.”
What a rollercoaster of a night for Patriots fans.
Mac Jones on the bench in the second quarter
Jones returned from a sprained ankle after missing three games. The Patriots made sure to disclose to the media that there was no quarterback controversy. 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, driving a pass into coverage that safety Jaquan Brisker caught. That’s when Zappe came in and the crowd screamed.
It kinda looked like we were watching something big happen on Monday Night Football. Zappe immediately threw a 30-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers after the Bears missed coverage. A 43-yard pass to DeVante Parker created another touchdown. If you were on social media, you heard a lot that this was another Drew Bledsoe/Tom Brady moment. Patience is not a strong point of social media.
The Patriots did not score again. The offensive line couldn’t protect Zappe. Zappe did nothing else. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense let the Bears rack up the points.
Around 10:45 p.m. Eastern Time, about an hour and a half after the world was convinced that Zappe would never give up the Patriots quarterback job, the Bears took a 33-14 lead. The rout was open.
Jones struggled. Zappe didn’t do much. The Patriots fell below the .500 mark 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 was coming off an unspeakably ugly home loss to Washington Commanders Thursday night of Week 6. When the Patriots got the momentum going with a 14-10 lead, it looked like the Bears were going get rolled.
This does not happen. Justin Fields continued to make plays, especially with his legs. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Herbert, when he threw the ball just as he was about to be run over by two Patriots defensemen, changed the tone of the game. A fumble on a throw sweep transfer just before halftime was recovered by the Bears. Chicago got a gift basket and led 20-14. The Patriots never recovered.
Zappe wasn’t terrible, but after its hot start it didn’t do much. Zappe finished 14 of 22 for 185 yards. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter after the Bears took a 19-point lead. It wasn’t the kind of performance that puts an end to the quarterback question for good, though Jones’ struggles may factor into the decision.
New England was doing pretty well coming back to 3-3. Things really improved when they took the lead on Monday night. Everything changed quickly.
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