Some thoughts coming off of last night’s game:
Another Rough Night For Zappe
Heading into the New England Patriots final preseason contest, Bailey Zappe really needed to go out on a high note heading into the season, but that, unfortunately, didn’t happen.
Zappe ended up playing the majority of the contest Friday night, which caught many people by surprise. He started the game and played into the second quarter before giving way to Trace McSorley with 7:01 left to go in the half, with McSorley finishing out the quarter as the Patriots went into the locker room at halftime trailing 13-7.
Over that initial span, Zappe went 4-of-6 for 42-yards but took two sacks, including one that saw him lose the football and helped set up Tennessee’s second field goal of the night.
However, he made a big throw late in the second quarter where he hit Thyrick Pitts on a dart over the middle, which Pitts took 23-yards upfield and it helped set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Kevin Harris.
After it had looked like his night – and possibly his preseason – was over, Zappe ended up starting the third quarter, which also saw a sequence where the club put Malik Cunningham under center for two plays during the drive.
The first came on a 2nd-and-7 where Cunningham took off and picked up 5-yards, and the second saw Cunningham line up again under center and execute a designed run play where he seemingly picked up the first down.
However, the rookie didn’t check the alignment before he snapped the football, as the offense ended up being flagged for an illegal formation and it killed the drive.
Zappe said after the game that the decision to put him back in the game after the half was head coach Bill Belichick’s decision.
“Yeah, that was kind of, I think, head man’s (head coach Bill Belichick) decision,” said Zappe. “You know, I just do what I’m told. Whenever they put me out, they put me out, and whenever they told me at halftime that I was going back in to start the third quarter, I was ready to go back out.”
That third quarter was brutal, with Zappe finding himself under pressure with targets like Cunningham and Pitts among his limited options to throw to. Zappe completed just 2-of-7 over that stretch, looking tired and frustrated and even found himself getting chewed out at one point by Bill O’Brien as he came off the field.
He did hit two short passes in the fourth quarter but eventually was replaced again with 3:01 left to go in the game by Cunningham, who also didn’t fare well.
Since going 12-of-14 for 79-yards in Houston in a game where he played things pretty safe, Zappe has since finished 18-of-37 (49%) over his last two starts and certainly hasn’t looked confident. Not that it’s easy to be confident after being sacked four times against the Titans.
The one bright spot is the fact that aside from his fumble, Zappe’s been better to this point than he was a year ago. He closed out his final two preseason outings in 2022 completing 26-of-39 (66.7%) for 257-yards but threw two interceptions, bringing his total for last year’s preseason to three picks. He ended up finishing this preseason without a single interception.
Overall, it was a frustrating outing but Zappe said he’s ready to just move on and get back to work.
“I mean, of course you can be in a lot better position every time you look back at film, look back at every game,” said Zappe. “There’s always going to be things that you could have done better, you could have you know, fixed. Like today was one of those games for me. So, we’ll get back tomorrow or whenever and kind of just learn from those mistakes and just move on.”
Roberts a Bright Spot
Second-year defensive lineman Sam Roberts had a solid showing during Friday night’s final preseason game in Tennesee, with Roberts playing the lion’s share of the snaps during the contest and he was fairly disruptive.
Roberts spent a lot of his time in the Titans’ backfield, and it started early in the game. He dropped running back Tyjae Spears for a loss on Tennessee’s first play from scrimmage, and also made a key play early in the second quarter after the Titans had driven down to the Patriots 18.
Facing a 3rd-and-3, Roberts came flying in on the snap and chased down Malik Willis from behind and dropped him for a 3-yard loss for the sack, which pushed the Titans back just enough where Michael Badgley ended up pushing the 39-yard field goal wide to the left.
Overall, Roberts finished the evening with that sack, two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits on the night. For a player who needed to make a good impression in his final exhibition game, the former standout from Northwest Missouri State certainly accomplished just that.
Munson was a Beast
After colliding with Isaiah Bolden at the end of last week’s game, linebacker Calvin Munson came out looking like a man on a mission Friday night.
Munson was all over the field, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles including a tackle for a loss and an interception.
One of his most impressive tackles came on Tennessee’s third drive following the turnover by Zappe after the second-year QB was sacked for an 8-yard loss and lost the football deep in New England’s own end.
With the Titans facing a 1st-and-5 from the Patriots 5-yard line, Munson broke through the line on the snap and dropped running back Julius Chestnut for a 4-yard loss.
His interception came on the next drive as the Titans were nearing midfield, with Munson stepping in front of a pass from Malik Willis to tight end Josh Whyle, and it ended up being a big play after Zappe and the offense put together a 5 play, 38-yard drive for a touchdown.
Overall, it was a nice finish as he got a little redemption after what happened last week.
Perkins Shined in this one
Ronnie Perkins had his most impressive outing as a Patriot, with the 2021 third-round pick making several big plays Friday night.
He finished second on the team in tackles behind Munson with 9, including a tackle for a loss and a quarterback hit. Also had a play just before the 2-minunte warning in the first half where he threw up before the Titans snapped the football yet still somehow mustered the energy to make the tackle.
Perkins did leave Friday night’s game shortly after taking down Mason Kinsey following an 11-yard pick up. On the play, he took some friendly fire from Quandre Mosely, who appeared to spear Jennings in the thigh.
Perkins walked gingerly off the field after the play, but overall, he played really well and put together one of his best performances as a pro Friday night.
Reiff’s Situation Concerning
One bad bit of news from Friday night is the fact that offensive lineman Reilly Reiff got dinged up after getting his leg rolled up on early in the contest.
Reiff did walk off under his own power before getting examined by trainers in the medical tent, with Reiff later departing for the locker room.
It’s unknown what his injury status is but if he’s out for any substantial period of time, it further weakens an already thin group along New England’s offensive line.
Not a Great Night for Stueber
Andrew Stueber hasn’t played well in recent weeks, with the former Michigan offensive lineman having a tough time again on Friday night.
He was beaten twice on two sacks, losing his block to defensive end Jayden Peevy who came in from behind with the pressure that contributed to the sack and fumble by Zappe, which led to Tennessee’s first points of the game.
He also gave up another one on New England’s third possession of the night that forced a punt.
It’s been a rough go for Stueber, who has struggled at tackle last week and certainly didn’t fare any better in this one.
Jack Jones Looks Like a Frustrated Player
Embattled defensive back Jack Jones played late into this contest, which would leave you to believe his availability may be limited in the coming weeks.
To make matters worse, based on how he played, he’s clearly frustrated and it affected him again in Tennessee.
The second-year defensive back was beaten on multiple throws and committed one of the more egregious pass interference plays where after not turning around, he just flat-out shoved receiver Chris Moore on a 3rd-and-11 play after Moore got behind him and Jones clearly decided if he was going to get flagged, he might as well make it count.
That play extended the drive and led to the Titans’ first field goal of the night.
He also found himself completely stiff-armed on a play where Spears fought Jones off of him and left the defensive back reeling, while picking up 19-yards.
It’s been a tough run for the Arizona State defensive back. It’s hard to read too much into things but given how he’s played as of late, and the fact he was out there so late into this one, there are certainly plenty of questions as his situation continues to play out.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary