Bill Belichick's plan to play Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe goes awry in Patriots' Monday night loss to Bears

Bill Belichick's best-laid plans for the New England Patriots' quarterback position went awry on Monday night, leaving little clarity on a foggy night in Foxborough.

After missing three games due to a high ankle sprain, Mac Jones got just three drives in his return. Thereafter, Bailey Zappe briefly sparked the offense on back-to-back scoring drives.

What followed that, however, was a muddled mess as the Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears, 33-14, and walked away from a Monday night defeat with a host of questions unanswered regarding their quarterback conundrum.

"I told the quarterbacks that we were going to play both of them, and that's what we did," said Belichick, who had won five straight against the Bears before Monday.

Belichick declined to name a starting quarterback for the Patriots' Week 8 matchup Sunday on the road against the New York Jets.

"We just finished the game," he answered in vintage Belichickian form.

Though Belichick didn't name a starter or convey his plan going forward, he admitted Jones' health played a "factor" in the plan for both QBs to play and said he didn't foresee a platoon situation with Zappe and Jones alternating starts.

Jones got the start and struggled when he completed only 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards with an interception and a 16.7 passer rating over the game's first three series. His tribulations came amid loud chants for Zappe from a home faithful that has embraced the rookie QB after he'd quarterbacked the Patriots to consecutive wins.

"I just have to do better at my job, and that's all it comes down to," Jones said when asked about how deflating it was to hear Zappe chants when he was on the field. "That's all I can control. Honestly, we've got a good chance here to go against the Jets, and that's what I'm focused on. I'm going to do my best to put my best foot forward. I've been in this situation before, and just going to try to help the team. Whatever my role is, I'll be ready, and I'll give it 100%."

Jones' last play was a Jaquan Brisker interception, though Belichick said he pulled the second-year signal-caller because of the pregame plan rather than his play, no matter the optics.

"That's not what it was, but you can write whatever you want to write," Belichick said when told it seemed to be a benching for performance. "That's not what it was."

"Zappe Fever" quickly erased any fervor over the return of the Mac when the fourth-rounder took the field to a loud ovation with the Patriots trailing the Bears, 10-0, at the top of the second quarter. For a moment in time, Zappe's relief appearance was a happening. Social media and the Foxborough crowd erupted, right along with the Patriots offense, which suddenly came to life.

On his opening drive, Zappe was perfect. He completed each of his three passes for a total of 54 yards, concluding with a 30-yard scoring pass to Jakobi Meyers.

A drive later, Zappe led the Patriots to a go-ahead score on a stanza opened with his 43-yard bomb to DeVante Parker. But Rhamondre Stevenson's 4-yard touchdown run with just more than six minutes to go in the first half was the conclusion of New England's scoring in Week 7.

The Bears rumbled to 23 points thereafter, dealing the Patriots a blowout loss.

Belichick said the plan was for Jones to re-enter the game in the second half, but the Bears changed those plans.

"The score got out of hand," he said. "I didn't think that was the right thing to do."

Zappe finished the first half going 5 of 6 for 109 yards, the touchdown, two scoring drives and a pristine 158.3 rating, but he wrapped up the game at 14-of-22 passing for 185 yards and three turnovers (a first-half fumble and two second-half interceptions).

"Just got to get better," Zappe said. "Can't fall off like I did. I've got to make some throws. I've got to make better decisions on certain things. That's the good thing about having another week. Get back at it tomorrow. Watch film tomorrow. Get ready for next week."

Zappe deflected questions about his understanding of the plan going into Monday to Belichick, but said he "prepared this week like I have every other week."

Jones was a bit more forthcoming and complimented the approach.

"I think we had a good plan, as always, just to go throughout the week and figure out what we want to do for the game," said Jones, who was a Pro Bowler as a rookie but is now dealing with a new offensive coordinator, an ankle injury and is 0-4 as a starter this season. "Coach Belichick was very good about communication and felt like I was good to play, and we had a good plan there, and obviously didn't play well enough there."

Now, it's on to the Jets, but there will be plenty of questions to answer before the Patriots get there.

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