How Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe Performed In Patriots’ Loss To Bears

Both Patriots QBs saw action in New England's 33-14 loss


Oct 24, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — Monday night was an ugly one for both Patriots passers, leaving New England with even more questions at the game’s most important position.

Quarterback Mac Jones returned from his high ankle sprain but lasted just over one quarter in a 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Rookie Bailey Zappe — impressive in Jones’ stead the previous two weeks — played the rest of the game, and though his entrance provided a short-term spark, it proved temporary as the Patriots were routed as 8.5-point favorites on their home field.

Here’s a closer look at how each QB performed in the primetime loss, which snapped a two-game win streak and dropped New England to 3-4 on the season:

Jones started the game and played the first three series. On the first two, the offense failed to gain a first down, with Jones completing a screen pass to Rhamondre Stevenson that was snuffed out for a 1-yard loss and checking down to Damien Harris for a 2-yard gain. He also scrambled for 6 yards, but that wasn’t enough to move the chains on third-and-long.

Left tackle Trent Brown committed a trifecta of penalties across those two drives (two of which were offset by defensive fouls), and the Patriots faced third downs of 11 and 10 yards. After the Patriots called a handoff to Stevenson on the latter, the Gillette Stadium crowd grew restless, with boos raining down and chants of “Za-ppe, Za-ppe” gaining steam.

The Patriots’ third possession was more fruitful. After overshooting rookie speedster Tyquan Thornton (who might have been held by a Bears defender) on the opening play, Jones later extended the drive with a 10-yard scramble on third-and-5 and a 12-yard strike to Hunter Henry on second-and-6. Stevenson also picked up a first down on a third-and-short handoff after another Jones scramble.

But two plays later, the biggest problem from Jones’ first three starts pre-injury resurfaced. Flushed from the pocket and throwing off his back foot, he lofted a deep ball in the direction of tight end Jonnu Smith. Instead, he found rookie safety Jaquan Briskey, who rotated down to undercut the ill-advised pass.

It was Jones’ sixth interception in four appearances this season, and it ended his night. Though head coach Bill Belichick told ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters that both quarterbacks would play in the second half — and that bringing in Zappe “was the plan all along” — Jones watched the remainder of the game from the sideline. He finished with more rushing yards (24) than passing yards (13) in his return to the lineup.

Zappe entered at the 11:55 mark of the second quarter, and his first two drives were nothing short of euphoric.

Trailing 10-0, Zappe hit a wide-open Stevenson on a swing pass for 20 yards on his third snap, then bombed a deep ball to Jakobi Meyers one play later. Meyers made a nice adjustment to haul in the pass, then crawled his way across the goal line for a 30-yard touchdown.

Next drive, same story. After a Myles Bryant interception gave the Patriots the ball at midfield, Zappe uncorked a pass to DeVante Parker, who was streaking down the left sideline. Parker, whose contested-catch ability has emerged in recent weeks, outmuscled Bears defensive back Jaylon Johnson for a 43-yard gain. Two plays later, Stevenson rushed in from four yards out to put New England ahead,14-10, and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.

But that brief flurry proved to be just a tease, not a preview.

The Patriots’ next drive ended with a lost fumble, with the exchange between Zappe and Meyers on a rare backfield handoff to the wideout going awry. On their next two series, they went three-and-out. All the while, the Bears, boasting an offense that averaged just 15 points per game over the first five weeks, bullied the Patriots’ defense, scoring on five consecutive possessions to take and then extend their lead.

By the time Zappe took his first fourth-quarter snap, the Patriots seemed to have accepted defeat, huddling and calling running plays while they trailed by 19 points. That drive culminated in an interception after a Zappe pass was batted at the line — one of four PBUs by front-seven Chicago defenders — and picked off by linebacker Roquan Smith. (Center David Andrews left the game and was evaluated for a head injury when Mike Pennel leveled him with an illegal blindside block during Smith’s return. Pennel, a one-time Patriot, was ejected for the hit.)

Zappe tossed another INT on the next Patriots possession, with rookie Kyler Gordon undercutting a lazy throw to Tyquan Thornton in a play reminiscent of the QB’s preseason miscues.

Zappe went 5-for-6 for 109 yards and a touchdown in the first half but 9-for-16 for just 76 yards with two interceptions after the intermission. Though he started hot, this performance is unlikely to convince Belichick and company that he should permanently replace a healthy Jones. But Jones also cannot continue to be as careless with the ball as he has been this season if he hopes to keep his starting job.

The Patriots now will have another QB decision to make ahead of a pivotal Week 8 matchup against the division rival New York Jets, who lead them by two games in the AFC East standings.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Justin Jones
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