The Bailey Zappe Fever may have reached a fever pitch among New England Patriots fans on Sunday. However, while the locker room is also excited by the rookie quarterback's play, they are not letting the fever get too crazy.
Zappe completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the way to a 38-15 win for the Patriots over the Cleveland Browns in Week 6.
Zappe's performance on Sunday was impressive for a pair of reasons. He didn't make any major mistakes or miscues for the third-straight game, only losing a fumble in the first quarter that was New England's lone turnover of the game.
What was different about the Week 6 performance from Zappe compared to his first two performances was that he aired it out a bit more. He took a deep shot to DeVante Parker on the Patriots' first drive, connecting with the veteran receiver for a 29-yard reception.
Zappe ended up completing a few more deep passes throughout the game, and he completed passes to eight different receivers–including himself.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick noticed the strides Zappe's made just in recent weeks as he's gone 2-0 as a starting quarterback.
“He learns every day, whether it’s practice, or meetings, or game experiences,” Belichick said. “He has pretty good instincts, but there is a lot for him to learn. There are things today that he learned from and he was able to take advantage of and make a couple plays. He had the opportunity. Again, it’s all performance. It’s not turning the ball over or a strip sack. It’s a good thing.”
Even Zappe's Patriots teammates couldn't help but be impressed with how the rookie's played so far.
“A lot of poise, a lot of composure,” center and captain David Andrews said of Zappe. “[He’s] having a lot of fun out there. I think he’s done a really good job for us, doing what he’s being asked to do.”
— NFL (@NFL) October 16, 2022
“Bailey, he’s a great player,” running back Rhamondre Stevenson added. “He’s doing his best out there. I think everybody can see that he’s completing passes and just doing what the coaches are asking him to. I’m proud of that kid.”
Patriots corner Jalen Mills credited the veterans and coaches around Zappe for putting the rookie in a good spot, but he didn't forget to give props to Zappe for learning and following instructions the right way.
“A young guy who’s out there doing exactly what coaches are asking him to do,” Mills said. “Whether it’s run or pass, he’s making his right checks. I know Mac and Hoy, they’re doing a good job as far as helping him as well. So, I think there’s a growth with the young guys. They’re getting better every day.”
Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith got his first major taste of playing with Bailey Zappe on Sunday after an ankle injury knocked him out of Week 4–Zappe's first game–early. Smith returned to action Sunday after missing Week 5 and caught two passes for 61 yards, including a 53-yard reception early in the second half that helped put the Patriots into Browns territory that lead to an eventual touchdown.
Smith liked what he saw out of Zappe on Sunday.
“He’s making a ton of improvement,” Smith said. “The guy back there just looks comfortable, like he’s really settling in, really figuring it out. He knows that he’s got a lot to improve on, as we all do, and I think just from him having that mindset he’ll continue to make a lot of strides. So, hats off to him. He’s come in the last couple of weeks and been doing a hell of a job. Couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s playing his ass off.”
Jonnu Smith left defenders in the dust as he gets the HUGE gain for the Patriots 😱pic.twitter.com/tcshDagDGP
— Patriots Nation (@PatsNationCP) October 16, 2022
However, Smith didn't want to get too carried away in praising Zappe.
“I mean, he’s still a rookie man,” Smith said. “We ain’t gonna sit here and f***ing … ‘Zappe the GOAT,' you know what I mean? But nah, he definitely has impressed man. He just looks real comfortable.
“And is he gonna watch this interview? He ain’t been good enough. He’s got to be better.”
Whether or note Bailey Zappe will get a chance to show improvement soon is anyone's guess. Mac Jones looked like he was close to making his return to action after missing two games on Sunday, but was ultimately ruled out prior to game-time. The Patriots will host the Bears on Monday night in Week 7.