The New England Patriots' losing ways came to an end on Thursday with a 21-18 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The victory couldn't have been possible without quarterback Bailey Zappe, who completed 67.9% of passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.
The Patriots' offense played confidently with Zappe under center. Running back Ezekiel Elliott was singing his QB's praises after the game, but did the veteran rusher's words also come with a subtle shot at Mac Jones in the process?
Patriots News: Ezekiel Elliott Shades Mac Jones
Elliott told reporters after the Week 14 victory that Zappe was "balling" in the victory and that the 24-year-old signal-caller "commands our attention in that huddle," per NESN's Zack Cox.
Considering how the Patriots didn't score more than seven points in Jones' last two starts or more than 17 in his previous four, it's safe to say that was a subtle shot at the struggling QB.
"[Zappe] just had so much confidence, and the offense definitely could feel that."- Ezekiel Elliott
It isn't surprising that Elliott was happy to be playing with Zappe last night. Even if Rhamondre Stevenson's absence played a role, the former Ohio State product still experienced the best night of his Patriots tenure, racking up 140 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 29 opportunities (22 carries, 7 receptions).
Elliott wasn't the only one buzzing thanks to Zappe's strong showing. Hunter Henry enjoyed his first two-touchdown performance since Week 14 of the 2021 campaign while JuJu Smith-Schuster finished with 90 receiving yards, which is significant given that he had that many in his six previous games combined.
Was Zappe perfect? No, highlighted by New England being shut out in the second half. But he was still a major improvement over Jones. Assuming he can maintain that level of play down the stretch, the Patriots should be able to end the season on a high note even if they don't make the playoffs.
Barring any injuries, Zappe will be back under center when the Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. Head coach Bill Belichick has made questionable decisions throughout the campaign, but I doubt he'll even consider going back to Jones for the upcoming bout.
Betting odds aren't available just yet, but it's safe to assume that the Patriots will be underdogs to the Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. But as improbable as an upset might seem, Zappe certainly gives New England a better shot at pulling it off than Jones.
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