Patriots bench Mac Jones for Bailey Zappe vs. Bears; rookie QB struggles after hot start in ‘MNF’ loss

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Mac Jones returned to the field Monday night for the Patriots, making his first start since exiting Week 3 with a high-ankle sprain. It did not last long. Struggling out of the gate against the Bears, the former first-round draft pick received a chorus of boos from the Gillette Stadium crowd after throwing an interception in the second quarter. On New England’s next drive, Jones was promptly benched in favor of rookie backup Bailey Zappe, who responded with an immediate touchdown drive to ignite the offense.

Zappe, 23, has become something of a fan favorite and league-wide sensation in his first year with the Patriots. Taking over under center in Week 4 after and backup Brian Hoyer a concussion while replacing Western Jones, the fourth-round Western Kentucky product flash poise and efficiency in back-to-back victories as an interim starter. Jones, meanwhile, appeared hesitant in the pocket during his first snaps since suffering the ankle injury, finishing Monday’s game 3 of 6 for 13 yards and a pick.

Jones was officially pulled from the game with just over 11 minutes left in the first half. He’s now thrown just two touchdowns compared to six interceptions on the year, after a relatively promising 2021 debut as the team’s first-time full-timer. Zappe, on the other hand, had been sharp off the bench, including on his first two series — both touchdown drives — against Chicago. But her ran into serious trouble late in Monday’s 33-14 loss, throwing a pair of interceptions during a listless second half from New England.

Jones had taken the majority of practice reps in the lead-up to Monday’s game, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick previously left the door open for Zappe to remain the team’s starting QB even after Jones returned to full health. After Monday’s game, Zappe revealed to reporters that he only learned of Jones starting Week 7’s game against Chicago “the same time ya’ll did,” suggesting Belichick hid his strategy from his own signal-callers. It’s unclear which QB will start in Week 8 and beyond.

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