Rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe replaced Mac Jones on Monday to cheers from the New England Patriots crowd. It was hysteria when Zappe led the Patriots to a 14-10 lead with touchdowns on his first two drives. Almost everyone with a social media account declared that Jones would no longer play over Zappe.
This lasted for about an hour. Maybe less. The sugar high from Zappe’s first two drives wore off quickly, and all that was left in the end was a surprising and disappointing 33-14 loss at home to the Chicago Bears.
The Bears blew out the Patriots. Zappe started to get hot and then it got cold. New England did not score in the second half. Chicago scored the game’s final 23 points. The Bears’ season high for points in a game this season was 23. They averaged 15.5 points a game and more than doubled that on Monday.
The Patriots are 3-4. Now they have a quarterback controversy that Bill Belichick didn’t clear up after the game. The Patriots head coach declined to name a starter moving forward and said Jones’ suspension that preceded his benching did not play a role in his decision.
“I told the quarterbacks we were going to play both of them,” Belichick told reporters. “So we did.”
Pushed if Jones’ benching was performance-related, Belichick had this to say:
“This is not what it was,” he continued. “You can write whatever you want to write. That’s not what it was.”
What a roller coaster of a night for Patriots fans.
Mac Jones was benched in the second quarter
Jones returned from a high ankle sprain after missing three games. The Patriots made sure to release to the media that there was no quarterback controversy. Jones would start when he was ready. Jones started Monday.
However, Jones didn’t seem ready. He was 3-of-6 for 13 yards after just over a quarter. He threw a miserable interception, dropping a pass in coverage that safety Jaquan Brisker picked off. At that moment Zappe came in and the crowd roared.
It almost looked like we were watching something big happen on Monday Night Football. Zappe promptly threw a 30-yard touchdown to Jakobi Meyers after a Bears fumble. A 43-yard pass to DeVante Parker set up another touchdown. If you’ve been on social media, you’ve heard a lot about how this was another Drew Bledsoe/Tom Brady moment. Patience is not a social media strong suit.
The Patriots didn’t score again. The offensive line couldn’t protect Zappe. Zappe didn’t make anything else happen. Meanwhile, the Patriots’ defense let the Bears pile up points.
By 10:45 PM ET, about an hour and a half after the world was convinced Zappe would never give up the Patriots quarterback position, the Bears took a 33-14 lead. The road was moving.
Jones fought back. Zappe didn’t do much. The Patriots fell below .500 with a bad loss. Now what?
Bears dominate in wins
Credit the Bears for ruining the Zappe party.
Chicago came in at 2-4, and had just suffered an extremely ugly loss at home to the Washington Commanders on Thursday night in Week 6. When the Patriots got the momentum going with a 14-10 lead, it looked like the Bears were going to be wrapped up.
This did not happen. Justin Fields continued to make plays, especially with his legs. His 25-yard touchdown pass to Khalil Herbert, when he tipped the ball while about to be crushed by two Patriots defenders, changed the tone of the game. A fumble on a plane sweep delivery just before the half was recovered by the Bears. Chicago got a free field goal and led 20-14. The Patriots never recovered.
Zappe wasn’t terrible, but after his hot start he didn’t do much. Zappe finished 14-for-22 for 185 yards. He threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter as the Bears blew a 19-point lead. It wasn’t the kind of performance that definitively ends the quarterback question, though Jones’ struggles could factor into the decision.
New England was doing very well getting back to 3-3. Things really looked up when they took the lead on Monday night. Everything changed quickly.