The Patriots came into Sunday as the biggest underdogs (+9.5) of the weekend as they headed to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers without starting quarterback Mac Jones. If 9.5 was the spread with Brian Hoyer under center, imagine what it would have been if people knew rookie Bailey Zappe would be the one playing most of the game at quarterback. And still, Zappe and the Patriots almost pulled off one of the bigger upsets of the young NFL season.
Hoyer had started off well enough, completing five out of his six passes for 37 yards and leading the Patriots down the field on the opening drive for a field goal. However, Hoyer ended the second possession flat on his back, the victim of Rashan Gary using Isaiah Wynn as a human turnstile. With what happened to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa fresh in everyone’s minds, the doctors didn’t take any chances with Hoyer and brought him into the locker room. Insert Zappe to take the first snaps of his career.
"“It was exciting at first. It was a dream come true to play in an NFL game.”"
With the Patriots backed up against their goal line, they opted to be conservative quickly going three and out. They were able to gain more yardage on their next two possessions but those also ended in punts before they finally got into Green Bay territory before the half. Unfortunately, Wynn got beat once again and Zappe fumbled. A Jack Jones pick-six of Rodgers however, gave the Patriots a 10-7 lead at the half.
It seemed that Zappe settled down in the second half and the Patriots offense looked as good as it has all season. Zappe led a 75-yard scoring drive which ended in his first career touchdown pass, a 25 yarder to DeVante Parker.
To begin the fourth quarter, Zappe again led the Patriots down the field as they scored on a Damien Harris touchdown run to take a 24-17 lead. The Patriots ran the ball on six of the seven plays, but Zappe was able to hit Nelson Agholor for a 21-yard gain on his lone throw. Things were going well, and it looked like the Patriots were primed for an upset on the road.
However, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay rushing game made some plays and the teams ended up in overtime. The Patriots defense quickly forced a three and out and a punt return by rookie Marcus Jones gave the Patriots the ball near midfield only needing a field goal to win.
Instead of letting the rookie quarterback try to win the game, the Patriots coaches called plays that wouldn’t let Zappe lose the game. Two runs and a short pass that wouldn’t have picked up a first down even if it had been completed, forced the Patriots to punt. It would be the last time they would see the ball. When asked about the frustration level of getting good field position and not being able to do anything with it, Zappe seemed upset but also put things into perspective.
"Of course, losing the game is always the worst thing. Everybody will look back and look at things we could have done differently,” said Zappe. “There are things personally for me that if I make a throw or if I do something differently, the outcome is different. But that’s the good thing about football, you’ve always got the next game.”"
The problem is, by the Patriots playing it safe and trying not to have the rookie quarterback lose it for them, they may have cost themselves a win. Now 1-3, they are running out of next games to salvage the season.