Just when it felt like the New England Patriots might not win another game in 2023, they came up with one of their best performances of the season behind their new starting quarterback.
Bailey Zappe threw three touchdown passes in the first half, providing all the offense that the Patriots would need in a 21-18 road win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on “Thursday Night Football.” The Pats came out on fire and built a 21-3 lead at one point, and the Steelers’ second-half rally would come up just short.
Zappe finished 19-of-28 passing for 240 yards, three TDs, and one interception, good for a 115.2 passer rating. Tight end Hunter Henry caught two of Zappe’s three touchdowns.
The Patriots were able to do something in this game that they’ve rarely done all season: get off to a fast start. Zappe started 3-of-4 for 60 yards on the Patriots’ opening drive, the final completion being a swing pass to Ezekiel Elliott for a catch-and-run touchdown. At the time, it was only the Patriots’ second offensive touchdown in their last four games.
Pittsburgh could only muster a field goal on its first drive, albeit an impressive 56-yardar for kicker Chris Boswell. The teams would trade punts for the rest of the first quarter, before the Patriots grabbed the first big defensive play of the night.
Fooling Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky in coverage, safety Jabrill Peppers pounced on an ill-advised pass attempt to nab his second interception of the season. He tacked on a 32-yard return to set up the Patriots at the Steelers’ 11-yard line.