Patriots

Pats' QB situation is a mess as Zappe, Jones struggle in ugly loss vs. Bears

Patriots

Few people expected the Chicago Bears to come into Gillette Stadium and kick the crap out of the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football", but that's exactly what happened. 

The Patriots led 14-10 in the second quarter after two consecutive touchdown drives with Bailey Zappe at quarterback after he replaced starter Mac Jones. New England had all the momentum at that point in the game. But the Bears didn't wilt at all. They scored 23 unanswered points and cruised to a 33-14 victory.

It's very rare that you see a Bill Belichick team play so poorly against an inferior opponent at home in a primetime window. There was no sense of urgency from the Patriots in the second half.

The loss drops the Patriots to 3-4, which puts them in sole possession of last place in the AFC East division. This defeat also snaps a five-game win streak the Patriots had against the Bears that began in 2002.

Here are three takeaways from Patriots-Bears.

1) QB controversy?

We can debate whether the Patriots have a quarterback controversy. What we know for sure is that New England has an absolute mess at the position.

 

Neither Mac Jones nor Bailey Zappe played well against the Bears. 

Jones struggled in the first half, completing three passes on six attempts for 13 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. It was Jones' sixth interception in 14 quarters of football this season.

The Patriots punted twice and lost the ball on an interception in their first three drives with Jones at the helm. Zappe replaced Jones and led the offense to back-to-back touchdowns.

The rookie QB connected with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers on a 30-yard touchdown pass to get New England on the scoreboard.

Zappe's second drive was equally impressive. He connected with wide receiver DeVante Parker on a 43-yard pass deep down the left sideline to put the Patriots inside the Bears' 10-yard line. Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson scored a rushing touchdown a few plays later.

It was all downhill for Zappe after his second drive. He finished the game and the Patriots didn't score again.

The rookie quarterback ended up completing 14 passes on 22 attempts for 185 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Zappe also was credited with a fumble on a failed handoff to Jakobi Meyers in the second quarter, and he had at least one pass batted down or tipped on each of the last four possessions of the game. 

So, what should the Patriots do entering Week 8? Neither quarterback did a good job protecting the football Monday night. Jones also struggled with his accuracy.

Zappe was far less effective playing from behind instead of ahead. But in fairness to Zappe, he did play a little bit better and the offense showed some impressive signs in the second quarter with him under center. But it's hard to feel good about either quarterback. Zappe should start against the Jets next week, but his leash probably wouldn't be very long.

2) Patriots' run game falls flat

It's hard to win when your offense doesn't have much balance, and that's what we saw from the Patriots on Monday night.

Damien Harris returned after missing last week's game with a hamstring injury, and he ran for just eight yards on three carries. Rhamondre Stevenson ran for 39 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

The Patriots, as a team, picked up 70 rushing yards (3.7 per carry) on 19 attempts. That's a pretty lackluster output against a Bears defense that entered Week 7 giving up the second-most rushing yards per game (168) and 4.8 yards per carry. 

New England won't win many games, especially against quality opponents, if Zappe or Jones have to carry most of the burden offensively. The run game needs to be much, much better going forward and give the offense enough balance to get the play-action going. 

3) Pats' D takes a step back

The Patriots defense played a key role in the team winning back-to-back games against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns over the last two weeks. This unit allowed just 15 points and forced six turnovers in those wins.

 

Sunday's game was supposed to be another easy matchup for the Patriots defense.

The Bears entered Week 7 as one of the worst offensive teams in football. They ranked 30th in points per game, 30th in total yards per game, 32nd in passing yards per game and 24th in third down conversion rate.

Instead of a laugher, this game ended up being a real challenge for Bill Belichick's defense as Chicago had little trouble moving the ball. The Bears racked up 390 yards of offense -- including 243 yards and two touchdowns on the ground -- and went 11-for-18 on third down.

The Patriots had all kinds of problems stopping the run against Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in Week 3, and Bears quarterback Justin Fields posed similar issues Monday night. Fields ran for 82 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries (5.9 yards per attempt)

Chicago's 33 points are a season-high, besting their 23-point output against the Houston Texans in Week 3. The Bears scored 23 unanswered points following Stevenson's second-quarter touchdown run.

Sure, the Patriots offense has to do its part to keep pace, but the defense just didn't get the job done against one of the league's least explosive and lowest-scoring offenses.