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Patriots’ Rookie QB Sharp as Defense Pitches Shutout

Bob George
Bob George on Twitter
2 months ago at 8:51 pm ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots’ Rookie QB Sharp as Defense Pitches ShutoutBob Breidenbach / USA TODAY NETWORK

FOXBOROUGH – Around the USA, Friday at 5 PM is referred to as “Happy Hour”. In New England, Sunday at 4 PM is now referred to as “Zappe Hour”.

Bailey Zappe got his first career NFL start on Sunday at Gillette Stadium against the Detroit Lions. In what continues to be the most unlikely quarterback story in the NFL this season, Zappe directed the Patriot offense to 22 points, managed the offense to near perfection, continued to show tremendous poise for a rookie third string quarterback, and had the crowd chanting his name loudly at game’s end.

But it was the defense who perhaps bathed themselves in more glory. They had a strip sack scoop and score, sacked Jared Goff twice and harassed himself all game long, came away with six stops on all six fourth down attempts, and best of all, pitched a shutout against the top offense in the league.

All this added up to a 29-0 whitewash of the Detroit Lions. It was the first shutout by the Patriots since blanking the Atlanta Falcons last year. At game’s end, it was hard to sit down and try and figure out who had the better game, Zappe or the defense.

So let’s just say this: If they wore a red throwback uniform, they had a good game. Even disgruntled right tackle Isaiah Wynn, who did manage to get called for holding late in the first half.

The only thing the Patriots did not do well in was in the red area. The Patriots were 0 for 4 inside the 20, and Nick Folk was a perfect four of four on field goals. Zappe did fire a touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers in the third quarter, but that throw was from 24 yards out and the Lions’ secondary, decimated from injuries all game long, had nobody near Meyers when he caught the ball.

The Patriot defense took advantage of a flustered Detroit offense and played the bend-but-don’t-break defense to perfection. The Patriots only outgained the Lions 364-312 in total yards gained, as the Patriots did give up some long gains from scrimmage. But six Lions drives ended in failed fourth down conversions, as the defense managed to dial up the right plays when they had to.

On the opening drive, the Lions had fourth and one at their own 45. Jamaal Williams was stuffed by JaWhaun Bentley for no gain. In the second quarter, the Lions had the ball at the Patriot 32 facing fourth and nine. Matt Judon came in from the right side and strip sacked Goff. Kyle Dugger picked up the loose football and rumbled 59 yards for a touchdown.

Into the second half, the first drive for the Lions ended at the Patriot 34 when Goff tried to hit Amon-Ra St. Brown in the right flat, but was hit immediately and dropped by Jonathan Jones for no gain. On their next drive, they drove 70 yards in 12 plays to the Patriot 7, facing fourth and goal. Goff went once again to St. Brown at the goal line, but Myles Bryant blanketed him and broke up the pass. On the next drive, Justin Jackson was stuffed for a yard loss by Raekwon McMillian. Then finally, late in the game, Goff tried to hit Josh Reynolds in the back of the end zone but was double covered by Jack Jones and Jabrill Peppers.

It was the first time a team went 0-5 (or worse) on fourth down in the NFL since a Patriot win over Denver in 1995.

Lost in the shuffle was an interception by Jack Jones in the first quarter. On first and ten from the Patriot 18, Goff tried to lob a pass to T.J. Hockenson near the goal line. Jones took off in the air and made a leaping grab, got turned around, then fell backwards out of bounds and somehow kept both feet in bounds when he hit the ground. Jack Jones is fast becoming a respected and very capable defensive back for the Patriots, making everyone begin to say “J.C. who?”

When you have a defense playing this well, it made life even easier for Zappe. He may have had four red zone drives that did not result in touchdowns, but a 29-0 win is still something to shout about.

Zappe finished 17 of 21 passing for 188 yards, one touchdown and one interception for an even 100 passer rating. The interception was not Zappe’s fault; the Patriots were at their own 36 facing second down and 14, and Zappe drilled a perfect pass into the hands of Nelson Agholor on a slant in pass from the right side. But Agholor had the ball clank off his hands and the ball deflected up in the air, and DeShon Elliott managed to snare the ball at midfield. That was the only time Agholor was targeted during the entire game. Otherwise, Zappe made no mistakes or threw any pass that might be construed as a “bad pass”.

The running game was also key to the victory. Despite Damien Harris going down early with a hamstring injury, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a career-high 161 yards on 25 carries and a 6.4 yards per carry average. He popped off a 49-yard run late in the first quarter thanks to a nice lead block by rookie Cole Strange.

Jakobi Meyers returned to the lineup today and led the team with 111 receiving yards and a touchdown. Hunter Henry also chipped in with four catches for 54 yards.

Goff finished 19 of 35 passing for 229 yards with a pick and a 62.7 passer rating. Josh Reynolds led the Lions with 92 yards on six catches, while Craig Reynolds had 68 yards on three catches. Williams had 56 yards on 15 carries.

Next up for the Patriots are the Cleveland Browns at the Dawg Pound. The Patriots will see old friend Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and still not the suspended Deshawn Watson. Of course, any time Bill Belichick comes back to Cleveland, he will remember his 1991-95 tenure as head coach here. If the Patriots win, it will be his 324th career coaching win which will tie him with former Chicago head coach George Halas for second place on the all-time coaching wins list with only Don Shula ahead of him.

You won’t be hearing about coaching wins this week. You will hear about “Zappe Hour”, and whether or not the Patriots might possibly be heading for a quarterback controversy. Talk radio this week should be interesting, especially with the Red Sox season mercifully over. Zappe’s win did come against the worst defense in the league, but few fans will take that into consideration.

Patriot Nation is happy, thanks to Zappe.


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2022 Patriots Season Detroit Lions New England Patriots

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