Mac Jones benched for Bailey Zappe for fourth time in loss to Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots took two weeks to decide on a starting quarterback for their Week 12 matchup against the Giants. There was no correct choice to be made.

Head coach Bill Belichick ultimately decided to start the same quarterback the Patriots had trotted out all season in Mac Jones, who had barely outperformed Bailey Zappe while the two signal-callers split first-team reps 50-50 over the week of practice following a Week 11 bye, in Sunday’s 10-7 loss to the Giants.

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It was an odd choice on the surface after Jones had been benched for Zappe before a two-minute drill in the Patriots’ previous game, a 10-6 loss to the Colts in Frankfurt, Germany. But Zappe didn’t make the decision easy on Belichick after throwing his own interception to end that game.

Jones responded with one of the absolute worst performances of his NFL career, completing 12-of-21 passing attempts for 89 yards with two interceptions. Jones was benched after the first half, and it was perplexing that he wasn’t pulled earlier.

His first interception came at the end of the first half when he tossed a pass too deep to rookie wide receiver Demario Douglas with three Giants defenders in the area. Deonte Banks caught the passing attempt like a punt.

But Jones stayed in the game as the two teams traded punts and turnovers. His next pick came with pressure bearing down from the left side with 4:39 left in the first half. Jones panicked and tried to toss the ball to Douglas, who was streaking downfield. Linebacker Bobby Okereke easily picked off the ball and returned it for 55 yards. The Giants responded with the first points of the game when quarterback Tommy DeVito, a 2023 undrafted free agent who outplayed Jones as starting QB, hit wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins on a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Zappe began the second half and immediately led the Patriots on an 11-play, 60-yard scoring drive. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s play-calling didn’t require much out of Zappe as the Patriots leaned heavily into the run game, screens and short passes. But Zappe avoided costly mistakes and went 6-of-6 for 38 yards before running back Rhamondre Stevenson scored on a 7-yard rushing touchdown.

Zappe didn’t fare as well in his next two drives. The Patriots were forced to punt on their next offensive series. Then Zappe threw an ugly interception on a passing attempt to wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster with three defenders in the area. Safety Xavier McKinney easily jumped Smith-Schuster’s route for the turnover.

The Giants capitalized on the interception with a field goal to go up 10-7.

The Patriots had a chance to tie late in the fourth quarter when Zappe led the Patriots on a nine-play, 33-yard drive, but rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed a 35-yard field goal for the loss.

Now the Patriots are right back to where they started after the bye week without a viable starting quarterback. And now they don’t even have third-stringer Will Grier to turn to after waiving him Saturday. Grier could still return to the 53-man roster or practice squad if he clears waivers. The team also has quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham on their practice squad, but he told the Herald that he hasn’t taken reps at quarterback since Week 6.

The two teams ultimately combined for 14 punts and four turnovers.


S Jabrill Peppers: The veteran safety came out to play against his former team, recovering a fumble on the Giants’ opening drive and later registering one of the Patriots’ six sacks.

DE Keion White: The rookie edge defender had another one of the Patriots’ sacks. He also delivered an impressive hit on Giants tight end Daniel Bellinger short of the sticks to force a punt.

DT Christian Barmore: The young defensive tackle continued to make a major impact with a sack, batted pass and tackle for loss.


QB Mac Jones: Jones’ performance didn’t allow the Patriots to be competitive offensively against one of the worst teams in the NFL.

QB Bailey Zappe: It didn’t take long for Zappe to throw his own boneheaded interception into triple coverage.

K Chad Ryland: The Patriots had a chance to tie late in the game but Ryland pulled his kick wide left for a miss.

CB J.C. Jackson: DeVito picked on Jackson early and often. Jackson was beat by rookie Jalin Hyatt for 22- and 41-yard completions.

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