New England Patriots

  • For a rookie playing his first career NFL game, and doing it unexpectedly, Bailey Zappe did a lot to impress his Patriots teammates and coaches.

    The rookie third-string quarterback was forced into the game on Sunday at Lambeau Field, after Brian Hoyer had to leave early on with a reported head injury. This could have very easily been a disaster. And while the Patriots certainly did a lot to protect Zappe from himself, the rookie protected the offense well in his own right.

    Zappe made only 15 pass attempts, with a nice 6.9 average intended air yards, compared to 24 running plays after he entered the game. So there was little in the way of taking chances with the green rook. But Zappe certainly had opportunities to hurt the team, and instead played mostly smart, disciplined football.

    For a 23-year-old backup in that spot, and what was asked of him, there’s not much more you can ask for.

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  • “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,” Bill Belichick said during his Monday morning presser. “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.”

    Example: on his fourth drive near the end of the second quarter, Zappe dropped back to pass on first-and-10. He bought himself time after escaping the pocket to the right, and briefly looked to throw it toward tight end Hunter Henry, but after a couple of pumps he threw the ball away.

    Henry wasn’t exactly wide open and a pass attempt there would’ve risked an interception that put the Packers deep in Patriots territory. Zappe thought better of it and lived to see another down. That’s winning football, and impressive poise under those circumstances.

    “It was a dream come true to play in an NFL game,” Zappe said after the game. “It’s obviously not the outcome we wanted at all. First, I give credit to my teammates. They kept me calm, they kept me…getting the nerves out of me. They kept me in my space; cool, calm and collected. And everyone played well tonight. O-line played well. We ran the ball well. It really just comes down to me. I need to make more plays and the outcome’s different.”

  • Zappe seemed to earn a lot of respect from his teammates, too.

    “I want to just give a huge shoutout to Zappe, man, the way he stepped up in that game,” linebacker Matthew Judon said after the game. “I don’t even believe he took that many reps with the 1s [starters], and the way he played and the poise he had, that’s amazing for a rookie, that’s good for our team. Big shoutout to him for just being ready.”

    The aforementioned drive ended with Zappe’s only turnover, a strip sack created by Rashan Gary. But it’s hard to put the fumble on him, when Gary had a free lane to him after badly beating right tackle Isaiah Wynn. Put that on the protection.

    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 02: Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots fumbles the ball while being hit by Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on October 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – OCTOBER 02: Bailey Zappe #4 of the New England Patriots fumbles the ball while being hit by Rashan Gary #52 of the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on October 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

    It’s more important that Zappe avoided an interception. He literally had fewer picks than Aaron Rodgers. Overall, Zappe showed a surprising level of discipline with the ball. And it was good of him to take accountability for the lack of playmaking, anyway.

    But that wasn’t Zappe’s fault, either. The Patriots’ conservative approach in overtime – three handoffs up the middle, one pass attempt under 10 yards, and a punt from the Packers’ 46-yard line – is under the proverbial microscope, after Rodgers drove the Packers down the field with relative ease to grab the win anyway. It would’ve been fun to see if Zappe could make a big play with his arm in OT.

    Patriots observers will have to wait for that. It seems the coaches will take a similar approach with Zappe to what they did with Mac Jones in his rookie season, and the hope is that it won’t ultimately lose them games. But it’s a good sign for Zappe that the rookie QB didn’t lose the game himself.

  • We’ll continue to keep you covered on the Patriots’ quarterback situation as the season goes along. Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.