Patriots show Bailey Zappe love after impressive debut vs. Packers

Perry: Zappe earns high praise from teammates after impressive debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

GREEN BAY -- Bailey Zappe saw Brian Hoyer come off the field and head toward the blue medical tent on the Patriots sideline to be evaluated for a concussion. The coaching staff’s message at that point was simple, Zappe said later.

"That’s football," he said. "Play ball."

Zappe entered the game against the Packers after the Patriots' second offensive series, which ended with a Rashan Gary sack that sent Hoyer hard to the Lambeau Field turf.

Zappe has been the team’s third-string quarterback since the start of training camp -- behind Hoyer and starter Mac Jones -- after being drafted in the fourth round out of Western Kentucky in the spring. Sunday was his first game in uniform thanks to Jones having been ruled out prior with an ankle injury.

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New England's 27-24 loss in overtime wasn’t the ending for which Zappe hoped, but he acknowledged the weight of the moment after the fact.

"Of course, it was exciting at first," Zappe said. “It was a dream come true to play in an NFL game. It’s obviously not the outcome we wanted at all. First, I give credit to my teammates. They kept me calm. Getting the nerves out of me. They kept me in my space -- cool, calm and collected. And everyone played well tonight. O-line played well. We ran the ball well. It really just comes down to me. I need to make more plays and the outcome’s different.”

The Patriots did what they could to manage the game with Zappe behind center, leaning on their running game to the tune of 167 yards on 33 carries. But Zappe did enough to keep the Patriots in it, going 10-for-15 for 99 yards and a touchdown.

“Proud of the way he competed, man,” center David Andrews said. “Went really quickly from probably thinking he wasn't playing much this year to being thrown in the mix in a pretty hostile environment against a really good defense. Thought he led us well. Thought he did a really good job. Obviously some things we gotta work on. But proud of the way he competed.

“I wanna just give a huge shoutout to Zappe, man,” Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. “The way he stepped up in the game -- I don’t even believe he took that many reps with the [starters] -- the way he played and the poise he had. That’s amazing for a rookie.”

The highlight of Zappe’s day was a 25-yard play-action pass to DeVante Parker that went for a touchdown and gave the Patriots a 17-14 lead.

That's the first time he's been active all season. You throw him into that situation and he doesn't flinch. We're fortunate to have a guy like that in this situation.

Matthew Slater on Bailey Zappe

“He looked poised,” Kendrick Bourne said. “He looked ready to go. You just never know what's going to happen. Proud of him ... He looked like a vet.

“I was kinda whispering to him during the week to be ready, you never know. His moment came, man. To play at Lambeau Field, under a crazy crowd. I was just proud of that dude, man. That was impressive, man.”

Hoyer departed Green Bay with the Patriots, leaving the locker room on Sunday night with a hood pulled over his head and his head down. He came off the sideline and headed for the locker room in the first quarter with Patriots medical personnel and the “red hat” unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.

Bill Belichick -- who said he thought Zappe competed well -- explained after the game that the Patriots did have an emergency quarterback option in case Zappe was injured. He did not say who that emergency option was.

Bourne, who threw a 25-yard touchdown pass for the Patriots last season, said he was not “QB3” Sunday.

“Nah, nah, nah,” he said. “That wasn't going to be me. I hope not. If that had been me, I would've been in there throwing the ball everywhere. I don't know who QB3 was going to be.”

As Jones continues to deal with a high ankle sprain, it’s possible the Patriots turn to Zappe in Week 5 against the Lions. Based on his teammates’ reaction to his performance Sunday, they’ll have a level of confidence in Zappe that he earned against the Packers.

“Very impressed,” Matthew Slater said. “For him to come in this situation, in this place, with all the mystique. Aaron Rodgers being on the other side of the field, he controlled the 'controllables', he stayed poised, he did what he was asked to do. And it speaks volumes about him being a professional and being ready to go.

"That's the first time he's been active all season. You throw him into that situation and he doesn't flinch. We're fortunate to have a guy like that in this situation.”