The Patriots QB controversy took a strange turn in a loss to the Bears

from Henry McKenna
FOX Sports AFC East Writer

Bill Belichick apparently gave Mack Jones a one-interception allowance. Because it was all that was needed. Belichick pulled Jones in place of Bailey Zappé in the New England Patriots’ 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday.

The Patriots struggled on the first few drives under Jones, and on third down the quarterback made the foolish decision to throw a floater under pressure. That set up safety Jaquan Brisker for a sensational interception. Belichick had seen enough of Jones, the 2021 No. 15 pick.

Why pull a QB so early? Is this due to concerns about Jones’ ankle injury?

“No,” Belichick said after the game.

So was he benched because of the interception?

“No,” Belichick said. “

Whether it was because Jones was still recovering from an ankle injury or because of poor play is anyone’s guess.

But the Patriots got the offense back on their backup, Zappé, who had three great games while Jones was sidelined with an ankle injury. They held Zappé out for the rest of the game — even though Belichick said at halftime that Jones would be back.

confused? It’s a strange situation. Really weird.

After Jones went 3-of-6 for 13 yards and an interception while trailing by 10 points, Zappe stepped in and scored 14 unanswered points. By comparison, Zappe was 5-of-6 for 109 yards and a touchdown. It’s fair to say he got the better of his first six innings.

For a brief moment, it looked like the Patriots might take control of the game. It appeared briefly that Zappe would take control of the opening act.

But it only seemed that way. This was not Zappe’s hour.

The Bears responded with 23 unanswered points. Zappe could not change the momentum of the game. The offense didn’t help its defense, with back-to-back three-and-outs to open the second half and zero hits on more than 10 plays in the game. Chicago’s offense was dominant against New England’s defense throughout the game.

The Bears rushed for 243 yards, with quarterback Justin Fields leading the team in that category with 82 yards and a rushing touchdown. Fields’ speed was too much for the Patriots the week before — it felt like New England was struggling to get a hand on him. The one exception was tight end Matthew Juden, who finished with 2.5 sacks and a pass deflection that led to an interception. He was the only bright spot. Otherwise, the Patriots’ defense got worse and worse as the game went on, especially after seeing starters Kyle Duggar and Adrian Phillips suffer injuries. It was New England’s worst defensive effort this season. In the passing game, Fields completed 13 of 21 for 179 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

It felt like Zappe had one last chance to ignite the Patriots’ offense in the fourth quarter with 12 minutes left and a 19-point deficit. He threw an interception when his pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage. Roquan Smith grabbed the ball out of the air and effectively put the play out of reach. It only got worse. Zappe would throw another interception before the game was over.

Zappe finished the game 14-of-22 for 185 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions. The quarterback also botched a handoff to receiver Jacoby Myers. New England’s ground game couldn’t get going. And every ingredient to New England’s recipe for success this season — strong defense, powerful running and play action — was missing. They are struggling heading into a game against the Jets, whose defense looked hot in Sunday’s win over the Denver Broncos.

For this game, it will be anyone’s guess who could start at quarterback: Jones or Zappe. The Patriots coach, predictably, wouldn’t say.

“Yeah, we just finished the game,” Belichick said when asked to name his Week 8 player.

Zappe struggled Monday with misses, just as Jones did in 2022. None of them looked game-changing enough against a Chicago team that many expected to be one of the worst teams in the league.

Last week, the Patriots seemed to have a good problem: They had two quarterbacks. Now that Belichick pulled his starter early in the game for a backup that failed, it’s fair to wonder if they don’t have one.

Before joining FOX Sports as an AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.

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