New England Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones was benched mid-game in his team’s 33-14 home defeat to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
Jones had missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain but finally returned to the starting line-up to face the Bears.
However, after leading the Patriots to two scoreless drives and throwing an interception, Jones was replaced by Bailey Zappe – the fourth-round rookie who led the team ably in Jones’ absence – in the second quarter. Throughout the game, the crowd in Gillette Stadium could be heard sporadically chanting Zappe’s name.
The 23-year-old Zappe immediately had an impact, leading New England to two back-to-back touchdown drives, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Myers.
However, Zappe did struggle during the contest, losing a fumble and throwing two late interceptions as the Bears turned the screw, scoring 23 straight points to turn the game and take the win.
After the game, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said it was his plan to play both quarterbacks in the game against the Bears and that he was going to put Jones back into the line-up, but the score got “out of hand.”
When asked who the starting quarterback would be in their Week 8 clash with the New York Jets, Belichick declined to comment. “We just finished the game,” he answered with his famous bluntness.
On the other sideline, it was a much more positive evening for the Bears who snapped a three-game losing streak with the victory.
Despite continuing to not throw the ball too much, quarterback Justin Fields and his cast of running backs destroyed the Patriots on the ground, finishing with 243 rushing yards and two touchdowns as a team.
Fields – who has struggled during his first season as the starting quarterback – looked much more composed on Monday, finishing with a passing touchdown, while rushing for another and tossing one interception.
In a style change from previous weeks, the Bears coaching staff implemented more designed runs for Fields to utilize his dynamism and keep the Patriots defense off-kilter.
And it worked as Chicago was able to move the ball up and down against New England, with Khalil Herbert the beneficiary of Fields’ touchdown pass as the Bears’ defense forced three Patriots interceptions by safety Jaquan Brisker, linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Kyler Gordon.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said the change in dynamics with Chicago’s offense was the catalyst for the win.
“I think that creates an issue sometimes for the defense, depending on what defense they’re in,” Eberflus said.
“Certainly, when you have a quarterback that has the designed runs with the run-pass off of it, then also doing some things just to have the ability to scramble and make first downs, I think that’s a big piece and it’s hard to defend those guys. We’ve all seen them around the league and Justin did a nice job of executing today.”
The Bears improve to 3-4 for the season, while the Patriots fall to the same record.