FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t ready to name a starting quarterback following a blowout 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
Belichick pulled starter Mac Jones after three sets, inserting rookie Bailey Zappe in his place for the remainder of the game and prompting questions about who will start when the team visits the New York Jets on Sunday.
Belichick wasn’t ready to commit on Monday night, saying, “We just finished the game.”
Jones’ last play was an interception, but Belichick insisted he was not on the bench and would have returned to the game in the second half had the score been closer.
He said the team intended to play both Jones and Zappe – and briefed both players on the plan leading up to the game – with Jones’ recovery from a sprained left ankle ‘a factor’ in the decision. Jones was playing for the first time since Sept. 25.
The Patriots trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and Zappe’s insertion into the play created an immediate spark with back-to-back touchdowns. But Zappe (14 of 22 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions) couldn’t keep up the momentum in the second half.
As for what that means for Sunday’s game against the Jets (5-2), Jones is prepared for any scenario. It’s a critical game for the Patriots, who at 3-4 find themselves in last place in the AFC East.
“I guess when Sunday comes we’ll find out,” Jones said after going 3 of 6 for 13 yards with just one interception. “I’ve been in this situation before and I’m just going to try to help the team. Whatever my role, I’ll be ready and give my 100 per cent.”
Jones wouldn’t put a percentage on his health.
“I don’t really do the whole percentage. You’re able to play or not. In the NFL, you don’t get any credit for playing injured or not, and there’s no excuse,” he said. declared. “So I felt like I was ready to go. Over time it will get better. I just have to play better.”
Some Patriots players seemed taken aback by the quarterback change – and hearing the home crowd chant “Zappe! Zappe! Zappe!” as Jones struggled. Zappe had generated notable fan support after helping the team to wins the previous two weeks.
“It’s the NFL for you. It’s a fast-moving business,” wide receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “It’s hard, as a man, to see someone who works so hard get that kind of treatment.”
Jones said he knew Zappe would play at some point on Monday.
“I think Coach Belichick had a really good plan for us. I understood the plan and what was going to happen…and the timing is the timing. We were on the same page, and he didn’t there’s no hard feelings or anything,” Jones said.
“I would have liked to play a bit better. Obviously the game wasn’t good for any of us, and it starts with me.”
Zappe was asked when he learned Jones would start on Monday.
“About the same time as y’all,” he replied, which sounded like a reference to the kickoff closing. “I prepare like I do every two weeks, like I’m at a game. It’s the same thing I’m going to do this week.”