The New England Patriots are continuing to get ready for the Detroit Lions this weekend, with Bill Belichick’s team trying to avoid their third straight loss after dropping two straight against Baltimore and Green Bay these last two weeks.
The biggest challenge heading into Sunday will again be the fact the club will likely be without Mac Jones for another week as he continues recovering from the ankle injury he suffered against Baltimore. Last Sunday saw back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer go down just 10 minutes into the contest, which thrust rookie Bailey Zappe into the line-up.
All things considered, Zappe played fairly well. He finished the afternoon 10-of-15 for 99-yrds along with a touchdown pass, including one stretch where he hit his final six passes during regulation prior to overtime.
The coaches largely limited what he was asked to do, with the team relying mostly on the ground game. Given the success both Damien Harris (18 carries, 86-yards) and Rhamondre Stevenson (14 carries, 66-yards) each had, it opened things up for them to have success off of playaction. That was an area where Zappe was able to create some space, with the rookie making some nice throws as a result.
Unlike last weekend, Zappe likely at least heads into Sunday’s game knowing he’s going to play, which should definitely make this weekend’s match-up against Detroit fairly interesting. The Lions hold the distinction as the team with the NFL’s worst defense, giving up an average of 444.8-yards per game. Detroit has also allowed the third-worst average rushing total at 165.5-yards per contest, which should hopefully see both Harris and Stevenson lead the way and allow Zappe to pick his spots like he did last weekend.
The reactions overall to Zappe in New England have been positive, although most analysts believe that it’s a little early to get overly excited. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran summed up Zappe’s performance by saying the rookie did about as much as could be expected.
“Bailey Zappe was newspaper stuffed into a leak that held up over the course of the day and that is not discrediting his 99-yard performance,” said Curran after the game on Sunday. “But that’s about as good as it could have been.”
It was definitely far from perfect. Zappe had some difficulties managing the play calls and getting the snap off on time, with the most notable moment coming prior to Zappe’s lone touchdown throw. Replays showed that Zappe didn’t get the snap off before the play clock hit zero, which was a bone of contention out in Green Bay and likely would have had Packers fans up in arms had the outcome not turned out the way it did.
Still, the execution of the play itself was solid, as Zappe made a nice throw to DeVante Parker as he came across and Parker took the football into the end zone for the touchdown.
That play was big at the time because it allowed the Patriots to answer after Green Bay had just scored a touchdown on their previous possession. More importantly, it gave New England back the lead at 17-14 and stopped the Packers from potentially grabbing the momentum, and kept them in control of the game.
Zappe went on to hit his final two throws in regulation, finishing out a second half where he went a perfect 4-of-4 for 68-yards and a touchdown, giving him an impressive QB rating of 158.3.
Overall, Belichick said earlier in the week that Zappe knew what his role was and he was pleased with his performance.
“I think we all know what a backup quarterback’s potential job and role is. Bailey [Zappe] knows it, we know it, everybody that plays that position knows it. That’s what happened and he stepped in. He was well prepared. I thought, generally, he handled himself well. Certainly, things he can improve on. We’ll work on. But, I thought he did a solid job.”
It should be fun to see how things play out against the Lions. Zappe is expected to start and Hoyer’s status remains in question, with Belichick actually telling reporters Monday that he initially wasn’t sure if the veteran traveled back with the club after Sunday’s game in Green Bay before later confirming he had.
With the team down to just Zappe, New England added quarterback Garrett Gilbert on Tuesday to the practice squad.
Sunday would be the first start for Zappe since his final collegiate start at Western Kentucky, which was certainly a solid performance. He finished the afternoon 33-of-47 for 422-yards and 6 touchdowns in the Boca Raton Bowl in 2021 as Western Kentucky went on to beat Appalachian State 59-38.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Regular Season
Tags: Bailey Zappe Bill Belichick Brian Hoyer Detroit Lions New England Patriots