Some thoughts coming off of Sunday’s win over the Lions:
1) Sunday was another solid performance for New England Patriots’ quarterback Bailey Zappe, with the rookie seeing the coaching staff loosen the reigns a bit as Zappe was given more opportunities to throw the football.
Overall, he completed 17-of-21 (81% completion rate) for 188-yards along with a touchdown and an interception. However, his lone turnover wasn’t exactly his fault. It occurred in the second quarter on a slant pattern to Nelson Agholor, with Zappe firing the throw into Agholor’s hands but the veteran wideout saw the ball slip off his fingers as he tried to cradle it and it tipped back up into the air before ending up in the hands of DeShon Elliott, who made a diving grab for the turnover.
Other than that, Zappe played well. He was much more in sync than he was last week from start to finish and at one point even hit eight-straight completions and finished the contest hitting 9 of his final 10 attempts.
In terms of preparation, with a full week of practice under his belt, unlike last Sunday, Zappe definitely seemed more poised and never looked rattled. He got good protection up front and on plays where he was flushed out, he kept his eyes downfield and either made the throw or held onto the ball and picked up whatever was there with his feet.
Head coach Bill Belichick said after the game that he was pleased with Zappe’s performance and was impressed with his decision-making.
“Bailey [Zappe] made a lot of good decisions, was accurate with the ball,” said Belichick. “Thought he showed some poise there at some pressure situations where he got out of it and found an open receiver, made good decisions.”
“Hopefully we can just keep building as a team and continue to improve every week like we have, if we work hard and really understand how we can play better, what we need to do to play better, coach better, communicate better. I think we can keep getting better. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Zappe was also nearly picked off targeting Parker Sunday. (PHOTO:Bob Breidenbach / USA TODAY NETWORK)
2) One area where it was obvious the coaching staff had gained confidence was at the end of the first half, where unlike last week near the end of regulation where Zappe and the offense was deep in their own end, they gave the rookie a chance to make some plays.
With the Patriots sitting at their own 13-yard line with 1:46 left to go in the half, they let Zappe run the two minute offense, which ended with New England getting points thanks to a 44yd field goal by Nick Folk.
On that possession Zappe hit Jakobi Meyers on a crossing throw after he was flushed out of the pocket, which picked up 15-yards. He then followed that up with an 8-yard throw that got them out to their own 39-yard line.
However, it wasn’t all perfect. Zappe nearly ended up with the same result that plagued Mac Jones after a play was called to DeVante Parker up the left sideline, which looked similar to other play calls we’ve seen that have resulted in several of Jones’ turnovers.
On the play Zappe threw deep up to Parker and as the ball arrived, safety Kirby Johnson read it perfectly and came across and looked like the receiver, leaping up and seemingly making the interception before losing it at the last moment. Detroit also got flagged for a defensive pass interference penalty on defensive back Jeff Okudah, which would have nullified any penalty, and instead it was a moment that resulted in nothing more than an incompletion on the stat sheet.
At the same time, for those who have been critical of Jones, it’s hard not to note that plays like that had been an issue and the change in the offense over the last two weeks has been noticeable. Fortunately, unlike Jones, Zappe caught a break and they finished off the drive.
Give Matt Patricia credit. Over the past two games, a lot of what wasn’t working appears to have been taken out and we’ve instead seen a much better mix of plays. We’ve seen the team running far more play-action, and that’s been one of the reasons why Zappe has had some opportunities while also keeping him from getting killed. It’s definitely been a better variation of calls that have looked vastly different from the plays being sent into the huddle when Jones was under center.
With that being said, as good as the progress by Zappe has been, what’s transpired in the last two games should be more of an indictment on Brian Hoyer vs Jones’ status as the starter. Zappe has looked more and more like he’s ready to ascend into the back-up role sooner than later.
If Jones needs one more week to recover and Zappe gets the nod next weekend and puts up another solid outing against Cleveland, it would set the Patriots up in a good spot moving forward with two players who are each under rookie deals for the foreseeable future.
3) Meanwhile, while the club finished with its highest point total yet of the 2022 season, it was good to see New England’s defense contribute to some of the points the Patriots put on the board.
Coming into Sunday’s match-up, Detroit’s offense had been one of the most productive in the league. They had put up over 30 points in three of their last four games, which included putting up 45 points last week against the Seahawks.
Against the Patriots, quarterback Jared Goff struggled to put much together, as New England’s defense kept him under pressure all day including sacking him twice, which was just the second time all season he was sacked more than once.
The Lions came into Gillette Stadium seemingly feeling pretty confident, which seemed to have a similar feel to what we saw against Green Bay just one week ago. Instead, the Patriots defense made quite a statement, not letting up until the final whistle as the Lions finished with a goose egg on the scoreboard.
Goff finished Sunday’s game without a touchdown pass and completed 19-of-35 for 229-yards along with an interception by Jack Jones, which was the rookie’s second pick in two games. But the biggest killer for Goff came on a 4th-and-9 from the Patriots’ 32-yard line in the second quarter as the Lions trailed just 6-0.
Instead of settling for a field goal, the Lions went for it and Goff found himself under pressure from Matthew Judon, who caught him from behind and caused the quarterback to lose the football. Kyle Dugger wasted no time, with the veteran safety flying in, scooping up the ball, and taking off 59-yards for the end zone for the touchdown.
That play essentially set the tone for the remainder of the game as New England’s defense dictated everything for the remainder of the day. The most impressive stat was the fact the Lions were held to 0-for-6 on fourth down, with New England’s defense shutting down every single attempt.
The Lions were a team that needed a little momentum but instead they flew back to Detroit with a bit of a wake up call given what transpired. While they now have a bye, the road after leaving Foxboro doesn’t get much easier.
They’ve got three tough games coming up. After their bye week, they head to Dallas in Week 7 followed by a visit by Miami and then a trip to Green Bay.
Jack Jones had another interception Sunday. (PHOTO: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports.)
4) Rookie defensive Jack Jones stepped up again on Sunday, with Jones finishing with his interception and another pass defended, as well as three tackles.
That gives him two straight contests with a turnover as he continues to settle into New England’s defense. Sunday’s turnover didn’t even appear to be his coverage, he just seemed to read Goff’s eyes and broke on the ball, making a leaping grab in front of T.J. Hockenson for the turnover.
On the play, it appeared to be linebacker Jahlani Tavai who had Hockenson, which fooled Goff into likely believing he had an advantage. But Jones spotted the play and made a break on the ball along with a perfectly timed jump and came down with the interception.
His instincts were one of the things that was talked about coming out of college and there was enough evidence in preseason where a lot of people believed we’d see him start making plays. That’s certainly what we’ve watched come to fruition these past two games.
After the pick-six last week and the play he made on Sunday, it’s clear that he’s getting more comfortable. Teammate Jonathan Jones said after the game that seeing someone like the rookie start making an impact is only going to continue to make them better.
“He is building, man he is building,” said Jones. “It was just confidence. Having young guys that come in and help, it makes it better for the defense.”
5) Another player who came up big on Sunday was running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who finished with a career day after putting up 161-yards rushing on the afternoon.
Stevenson ended up shouldering all of the rushing duties after teammate Damien Harris left the contest early on with a hamstring injury.
He finished the first half carrying 8 times for 69-yards, with most of those yards coming on a 49-yard scamper where he set New England up with good field position before Folk hit his second field goal of the afternoon.
But in the second half, he went on a tear, carrying 17 times for 92-yards as the Lions didn’t have much of an answer.
He’s been tremendous since being drafted and he finds himself in an interesting situation given that Harris is set to be a free agent after this season. Given how well Harris has performed, he’ll likely garner interest from other teams and that will likely see Stevenson eventually ascend to the lead role here in New England.
They’re fortunate to have him since if Harris is sidelined next Sunday, they’ll need another strong showing from the former Oklahoma standout as they try to hopefully even their record at 3-3 on the road in Cleveland.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bailey Zappe Detroit Lions New England Patriots