FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick isn’t ready to name a starting quarterback after Monday night’s 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Belichick pulled starter Mac Jones after three series, inserted rookie Bailey Zappe the rest of the way, and raised questions about who will start when the team visits the New York Jets on Sunday.
Belichick wasn’t ready late Monday, saying: “We just finished the game.”
Jones’ final game was an interception, but Belichick insisted he wasn’t on the bench and would have returned in the second half if the score had been closer.
He said the team intends to play both Jones and Zappe — and informed both players of their pregame plans — and that Jones’ recovery from a sprained left-height ankle was “a factor” in the decision. Jones played for the first time since September. 25.
The Patriots trailed 10-0 in the first quarter, and Zappe’s insertion in the game immediately created the spark with back-to-back touchdowns. But Zappe (14-for-22 for 185 yards passing, two touchdown interceptions) couldn’t carry the momentum into the second half.
As for what that means for Sunday’s game against the Jets (5-2), Jones is ready for any scenario. It was a crucial game for the Patriots, who found themselves last in the AFC East at 3-4.
“I think when Sunday comes, we’ll know,” Jones said after a 3-for-6 interception for 13 yards. “I’ve been in this situation before and I just want to try and help the team. Whatever my role is, I’m going to be ready, I’m going to give it 100 per cent.”
Jones won’t do a percentage calculation on his health.
“I don’t really do the whole percentage thing. You either get to play or you don’t. In the NFL, you don’t get any credit for being injured or not, and there’s no excuse,” he said. “So I think I’m fine. It’s going to get better over time. I have to play better.”
Some Patriots players seemed surprised by the quarterback switch — Jones struggled to hear the home crowd chanting “Zappe! Zappe! Zappe!” After helping the team to victory in the first two weeks, Zappe has gained significant fan support.
“This is your NFL. It’s a fast-moving industry,” said leading wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. “As a man, it’s hard to see someone who works so hard get treated like this.”
Jones said he knew Zappe would play sometime on Monday.
“I think Coach Belichick has a really good plan for us. I understand the plan and what’s going to happen… The timing is the timing. We’re on the same page, no bad feelings or anything, ‘ said Jones.
“I wish I could play a little bit better. Obviously, this game is not good for either of us, and it starts with me.”
Zappe was asked when it was learned that Jones would start on Monday.
“At about the same time as you guys,” he replied, which seemed to be referring to close to kickoff. “I prepare like every other week, like I’m just one game. It’s the same thing I’m doing this week.”