FOXBOROUGH – Zappe Fever made a surprising and thrilling performance for the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Monday night … at least for a bit.
Bailey Zappe replaced Mac Jones on the Patriots' fourth drive of the game after the second-year quarterback struggled in his first three drives in his return from injury. He immediately gave Patriots fans another strain of Zappe Fever, throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers on his first drive of the game against the Chicago Bears. He completed a 43-yard deep pass to DeVante Parker on the first play of the next drive that set the Patriots up for another touchdown.
But those were the only high moments Zappe and the Patriots' offense felt on Monday night as they went scoreless for the remainder of the game. Zappe ended up completing 14-of-22 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions as the Patriots fell 33-14.
Even though Zappe's performance was a roller coaster, that wasn't the biggest story surrounding the Patriots' quarterback situation. Rather, it was the fact that Bill Belichick planned to play both Zappe and Jones on Monday.
Zappe took the postgame podium before his coach did, meaning he had to deal with the questions about the Patriots' bizarre situation. He didn't provide much insight as to why Belichick did what he did.
DeVante Parker OH MY 😮
— NFL (@NFL) October 25, 2022
“I think that is something, you know, for Coach Belichick,” Zappe said when asked about his understanding of Belichick's plan at quarterback. “I prepared this week like I have every other week. I prepared as if I was going to play or not. This game didn't go our way, so get back to work this week, and get ready for the Jets.”
Zappe shared some insight though as to when he found out when Jones would get the start on Monday night.
“About the same time y'all did,” Zappe said. “I prepare like I have every other week like I was one play away and getting ready for every game like I have the last seven weeks, and same thing I'm going to do this next week.”
Zappe deflected when asked if he took first-team reps during practice in the week leading up to Monday's game.
“That's a question – moving on to the Jets, actually. So getting ready for them,” Zappe said.
However, he shared how he prepared for Monday's game when asked if he felt he was prepared enough to play the amount he did against the Bears.
“You take mental reps whenever you're not in. That's another way that you can prepare throughout the week. It's not all physical,” the Patriots rookie said. “So, whenever you're not in standing behind the quarterbacks taking mental reps, that's another way you can do it throughout the week.”
As for his performance, Zappe took ownership of his second-half struggles after going on a tear in his first two drives of the game.
“I just got to get better. Can't fall off like I did,” Zappe said. “I've got to make some throws. I've got to make better decisions on certain things. That's the good thing about having another week. Get back at it tomorrow. Watch film tomorrow. Get ready for next week.”
— Conor Roche (@ConorRoche27) October 25, 2022
Another issue Zappe dealt with as the game went along was the Bears' defensive line. It wasn't that Chicago's pass rush getting to him, though. Rather, it was the Bears' defensive line often batting the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Chicago tipped a pass Zappe threw on four consecutive drives, with one of them resulting in an interception.
The 6-foot-1 Zappe took ownership of that, too.
“I mean, that just goes on to me,” Zappe said. “I have to do a better job of getting around defenders, finding lanes to get it to receivers. Of course, that's something else that I continue to work on. So, I just have to get better finding lanes, getting around defenders, getting over top of them, around them, whatever it may be.”
Belichick wouldn't say if Zappe or Jones would start at quarterback moving forward after the Patriots fell to 3-4 on Monday. All three were on the same page though: It's time to move onto the Jets.