FOXBORO -- The Patriots made a switch at quarterback in Week 13, but starting Bailey Zappe over Mac Jones didn't change much of anything for the New England offense. After scoring just 13 points over their previous two games, the Patriots were shut out in a 6-0 loss to the Chargers at Gillette Stadium.
Head coach Bill Belichick said that Zappe has been working hard all season and he "deserved" to start on Sunday. He would not, however, say whether or not Zappe would start again Thursday night when the Patriots visit the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Zappe will continue to prepare as though he's the starter in this abbreviated week. But he knows in order to keep this new opportunity going, the Patriots need to score points.
The defense continues to live up to their side of the bargain for the Patriots. They've allowed just 26 points over the last three games, but New England has lost each of them because the offense has found the end zone just once over that stretch. Backbreaking interceptions from Jones were the main culprit in losses to the Colts and the Giants.
Zappe didn't throw any passes to the L.A. defense on Sunday, which was a big positive. But he really didn't get much of anything going throughout the game, either. He had just 39 yards at halftime didn't do much more in the second half. His final line -- 13-for-25, 141 yards, no touchdowns -- won't instill much faith that the second-year quarterback can get the New England offense going.
At the podium after his first start of the season, Zappe shouldered the blame for the offense's inability to put points on the board.
"The defense played great. The offense, that starts with me. I have to make plays in the end," said Zappe. "I have to throw better balls and make the balls catchable, especially in conditions like today. I have to throw the ball better. It starts with me on the offensive side to get things going."
While he showed much better pocket presence than Jones has displayed this season, Zappe took five sacks on the afternoon. That included two killer sacks in the third quarter when the Patriots got down to the L.A. 32-yard line. Being brought down twice on back-to-back plays knocked New England out of field goal range, and destroyed their best shot at putting points on the board.
"That is totally on me. I have to understand where we're at on the field and understand that we have points and understand when plays are done," said Zappe. "No one is open, I have to throw the ball away. I tried to do too much and that was on me."
That has been a delicate balance for Patriots quarterbacks this season. Jones' biggest issue was throwing the ball to defenses when he was under duress (and a lot of times when he was not). Zappe's on Sunday was not throwing the ball away when he found himself in trouble and getting taken down for a big loss.
In the end, neither Jones nor Zappe have proven capable of putting points up for the Patriots.
"The biggest thing from the quarterback position is not throwing any interceptions. We were able to do that today, but we weren't able to score any points. We have to score points," said Zappe. "That starts with me and starts with making smarter decisions. Growing from the things we did well today and learning from the things we didn't."
While the soggy conditions in Foxboro made life difficult for pass-catchers on Sunday, Zappe did not let that become an excuse. He took the blame for not throwing good enough balls for his receivers to catch.
"Both teams have to play through it. Yeah, it's not ideal, but you have to deal with it. It starts with me," he said. "A wet ball that is hard to catch, I have to throw it better. No excuses, I have to play better."
That includes a deep pass that Zappe threw in the third quarter that bounced off the fingertips of Tyquan Thornton downfield.
"We have a great receiver group. We have guys that can go down and get the ball, you just have to give them a chance," said Zappe. "I need to throw a better ball like the deep one to Tyquan. I threw it too far. If I throw it six inches shorter, that's a touchdown. We just have to keep grinding. Those guys are doing phenomenal, I just have to get them the ball."
While Zappe feels like he let his receivers down, the entire offense should feel like they let the New England defense down. But Zappe stressed that here is no division inside the Patriots' locker room.
"Everyone comes to work and pushes each other. As long as we stay that way, these last five games, things will start to go in our favor," he said. "We just have to keep working."
But it's hard to win in the NFL when a team doesn't score any points. No matter who is in at quarterback, the New England offense continues to hold the Patriots back.
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