Typically, when an NFL quarterback exits a preseason game, he’s done for the night. That wasn’t the case Friday for Bailey Zappe.

Zappe played the first quarter-and-a-half of the New England Patriots’ preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans before giving way to third-stringer Trace McSorley. It appeared McSorley would get a lengthy look after not seeing the field in the Patriots’ second exhibition game.

But when the Patriots’ offense returned to the field after halftime, Zappe was back behind center. He remained there for most of the second half, save for two brief cameos by multi-positional rookie Malik Cunningham.

“That was kind of the head man’s decision,” Zappe told reporters after the game, which the Titans won 23-7. “I just do what I’m told. Whenever they pull me out, they pull me out. Whenever they told me at halftime I was going back in to start the third quarter, I was ready to go back out.”

Story continues below advertisement

All told, it was an evening to forget for New England’s backup quarterback. With Mac Jones sitting out along with most of the Patriots’ starters, Zappe completed just 8 of 15 passes for 57 yards in the loss. He took four sacks behind a depleted and overmatched offensive line and fumbled three times, losing one.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Most of the players blocking for Zappe and catching his passes Friday night likely won’t be on the initial 53-man roster once it’s finalized next Tuesday. The QB’s frustration was visible on the game broadcast, as was offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s.

“It’s football,” Zappe told reporters. “Stuff’s going to happen. People are going to be switched in and out. The QB’s job is to go out there and play football, and today, there was some good and some bad. Definitely could have done better at some of those things, but it doesn’t matter who’s really out there. It’s just a matter of execution. That directly reflects on us as quarterbacks.”

Story continues below advertisement

After months of talk about a potential QB competition, Zappe never came close to challenging Jones for the starting job this summer. The second-year pro saw minimal reps with the offensive regulars in training camp and none in the three preseason games, during which he completed 58.8% of his passes, scored two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) and averaged 4.96 yards per attempt.

Cunningham played QB for two snaps on the opening series of the third quarter Friday night and four more on New England’s final drive, going 0-for-2 passing and rushing once for 5 yards. The undrafted rookie also saw extensive action at wide receiver and struggled for the second straight week. His receiving totals for the preseason: nine targets, one catch, -1 yard.

The Patriots now must decide whether to roster Cunningham, whose stock has fallen in the weeks since his electric preseason debut, as a developmental, high-upside QB3.

In order to add Cunningham to their practice squad — where he could provide value by imitating the several athletic quarterbacks New England will face this season — the Patriots would need to cut him and hope he passes unclaimed through waivers.

Story continues below advertisement

McSorley, who went 0-for-1 with a kneeldown against Tennessee, is a roster long shot.

Featured image via Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via USA TODAY Sports Images