FOXBORO, Mass. — Some Patriots fans still have a case of “Zappe Fever”.
Of course, calls for rookie Bailey Zappe to replace Mac Jones reached an embarrassing fever pitch during New England’s Week 7 home loss to the Chicago Bears. However, the chants, typically quiet and short-lived, have cropped up in the weeks since whenever Jones and the Patriots offense have struggled to move the ball.
But it was different Saturday. The “Zappe” chants were loud during the first half of the Patriots’ 22-18 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, despite the Gillette Stadium crowd being among the thinnest in recent memory. From calling for Zappe to enter the game to generally moving New England’s lifeless offense, fans in Foxboro let the Patriots hear it.
The chants subsided during the second half as Jones and the Patriots marched a spirited comeback attempt that ultimately was cut short by a last-minute (and controversial) Rhamondre Stevenson fumble. Jones stepped up in the final two quarters, finishing the game with 240 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-33 passing.
After the game, receiver Jakobi Meyers was asked specifically about the Zappe chants and Jones performing well in the face of adversity.
“Just his resiliency,” Meyers said. “That ain’t the first time that it’s happened this year, honestly. He dealt with it all year. Just guys ready to just pass it to the next guy. But he just keeps going on there battling. He takes shots, gets back up. He makes mistakes, he comes back and tries to fix it.
“Shout-out to Mac, man. It’s a tough guy mentally and physically. I can roll with him any day. Because, at the end of the day you know, regardless of what people say, he’s gonna go out there and fight his hardest.”
Shortly afterward, Jones was informed of Meyers comments and also asked about the Zappe chants.
“I think we’ve got a lot of tough players on this team,” Jones said. “I look up to a lot of guys like Jakobi and (Kendrick Bourne) and (Matthew) Slater and Devin (McCourty). I’ve been able to watch my first two years here. And the best players on our team are the toughest players and there’s times when I need to be more tough and stand in there and rip it and all that stuff.
“We’re all out there competing. That’s what it’s all about. It’s just not quitting and keep competing and we’ll do that as an offense. We’ll do that as a defense. Do it as special teams. I think the guys themselves, we’re all going to compete. So that will never change.”
Jones and the Patriots now face an unlikely path to the postseason. At 7-8, their hopes for a playoff berth are perilously slim.
One way or another, New England needs a victory next Sunday when it hosts the Miami Dolphins.