Patriots at Packers thumbs up, thumbs down: Bailey Zappe nearly upsets Aaron Rodgers!


The Patriots weren’t supposed to have much of a shot at upsetting Aaron Rodgers’ Packers Sunday afternoon with veteran journeyman backup quarterback Brian Hoyer filling in under center for Mac Jones at Lambeau Field.

New England’s upset chances reached even longer odds when Hoyer left with a head injury in the first quarter, leaving fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe leading the offense.

But thanks to an impressive defensive effort, including Jack Jones’ pick-6 interception late in the second quarter, Zappe and Co. led Green Bay 10-7 at halftime. And New England even led 17-14 on Zappe’s first career touchdown pass in the third quarter and again at 24-17 in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, the home squad made just enough plays in the end to come away with the 27-24 overtime win to ruin Zappe’s NFL debut and send the Patriots back to New Engalnd with a 1-3 record on the young season.

Still, it was an impressive effort in a tough spot on the road that should not go unnoticed. Of course in the end it was still also a loss.

Before turning the page to next week’s battle with the feisty Lions in Foxborough, here are some of the highs and lows from the hard-fought loss in Green Bay.

Thumbs up

Bailey Zappe – Thrown into his first NFL game in the first quarter against the Packers, the fourth-round rookie didn’t seem to wilt under the pressure of the situation. In fact, he looked pretty darn comfortable in the spotlight, including his first career touchdown throw for the 25-yard score to DeVante Parker in the third quarter to answer a Packers’ scoring drive and give the Patriots the 17-14 lead. Zappe wasn’t asked to do a ton – the rookie completed just 10 of 15 passes for 99 yards with the one touchdown – but also didn’t do anything to mess thigns up. He gave his team a chance to win, even if it came up short in overtime.

Damien Harris/Rhamondre Stevenson – New England needed to turn to its two young running backs and its run blockers up front with Zappe under center and the run game responsed. Harris finsiehd with 18 carries for 86 yards, including the go-ahead 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Stevenson added 66 yards on 14 carries for an offense that totaled 167 yards on the ground. Trent Brown and company opened the holes – the left tackle even flexing over the pile after one positive run – and the running backs carried the load as far as they could.

Jack Jones – The rookie cornerback had a heck of a first half at Lambeau. He forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and recorded his first-career interception with a pick-6 of Aaron Rodgers late in the second quarter to give the Patriots the 10-7 advantage at halftime. Jones’ 40-yard return for the score was just the second-career pick-6 Rodgers has thrown at Lambeau Field. Jones finished with 7 tackles and the two takeaways, bringing youthful energy and playmaking to the back end.

Defense – Without a couple key starters and staring into Aaron Rodgers’ Hall of Fame eyes, New England’s defense did its best to fight the good fight in Green Bay even after Hoyer was lost for the day. The unit held Rodgers’ offense to 125 yards and just 7 points in the first half and put its own points on the scoreboard with Jones interception. The Packers ran the ball at times and Rodgers made his plays at times, but the undermanned defense put up more than a good enough fight on the road.

Thumbs down

Health – New England’s list of inactives in Green Bay was littered with key players. Obviously Mac Jones led the group, missing the first game of his career due to the ankle injury. Fellow captain and key defensive lineman Lawrence Guy was absent with a shoulder injury. Jakobi Meyers missed his second straight game to a knee injury while Jalen Mills missed his first game of the year with a hamstring issue. It’s hard to win on the road in the NFL without your starting quarterback, No. 1 WR, No. 1 CB and most consistent defensive lineman. Things obviously got even worse when Hoyer left with a head injury in the first quarter and continued with Jonnu Smith leaving with an ankle issue.

Isaiah Wynn – Hoyer was under pressure multiple times on the first couple drives, the pressure coming off the offensive right side. Wynn allowed Rashan Gary by for the third-down sack on the second series of the game, forcing a punt following a Packers turnover. Wynn started the next series off, with Zappe at QB, with a false start. Wynn then got beat for a strip sack with Zappe driving the offense to likely points near the end of the first half. With Marcus Cannon elevated from the practice squad to the active roster, Wynn was benched in the second half.

Penalties -- New England simply had too many penalties, finishing with seven for 75 yards. They came on both sides of the ball. The most costly was nearly Myles Bryant's pass interference in the final minutes to extend Rodgers' drive to potential game-winning points. It was an impressive effort for the Patriots in so many ways, but they made that effort more difficult with all the flags, especially considering the Packers had just two penalties for 25 yards.

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