Despite Bailey Zappe’s performance in last Thursday’s win over the Steelers, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was cagey when asked Monday if Zappe had done enough to be named the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs.
“I’m not announcing who’s doing what,” Belichick said during his weekly appearance on WEEI.
Asked if it will be a competition this week between Zappe and Mac Jones in practice, Belichick said, “We’ll talk about that. We don’t practice until Wednesday, so we’ll talk about that over the next couple of days. We’ll try and make sure everybody is ready to go. And hopefully everybody will be ready to go.”
Zappe finished 19 of 28 for 240 yards with three touchdowns and one interception against the Steelers. Belichick did praise the offense as a whole, saying it was one of the positives worth taking out of the game.
“Production comes from units, and no individual can do it by himself on any side of the ball,” he said. “Offense, defense, special teams. We focus on unit performance and production. Of course, individual production goes with it. But we did a good job offensively, moving the ball. We had some explosive plays. Three touchdowns in the red area. There were some positive things. Certainly not perfect — things we can improve on and need to do better.”
As he has done before this season, Belichick praised Zappe’s even-keeled approach, saying the second-year signal-caller has done well “taking care of the ball” and managing the game.
“Bailey’s been pretty consistent,” Belichick said. “We haven’t had a lot of negative plays, turnovers — penalties that are related to the quarterback position. Delay of game and things like that.
“He’s done a good job managing the team and taking care of the ball. There are always plays that players and coaches can do a little better when you look back over the game. But again, everybody who plays in the game feels that way. Bailey works hard and tries to correct his mistakes. [He] tries to learn each week and actually learn each day. So, I’m sure he’ll continue to do that.”
Asked why Zappe didn’t get the call to start earlier in the season, Belichick said they “made the decision when we thought it was the right time to make it.”
Tanks for nothing
The idea of tanking doesn’t sit well with defensive lineman Christian Barmore.
Asked about fans who might have been disappointed with the win over the Steelers because they’re more interested in the Patriots pursuing a better draft pick, Barmore didn’t mince words.
“We ain’t here to give games up,” he said Monday afternoon. “We’re here to play football.”
The Patriots are in position for the second overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. They are tied with the Cardinals at 3-10, but the Patriots’ lower strength of schedule gives them the tiebreaker. The Panthers have the worst record in the league at 1-12, but the Bears own their pick.
Onwenu learns from mistakes
Right tackle Mike Onwenu said he was playing “out of character” and “not trusting technique” in the Week 13 loss to the Chargers, but he took the teaching points over the short week and applied them against the Steelers.
As a result, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien specifically mentioned Onwenu’s performance the next day, saying he had a “hell of a game.”
“It means a lot,” Onwenu said of O’Brien’s acknowledgment. “One of our keys was on my side, I was able to neutralize them, and we had a good game.”
Onwenu is one of a handful of Patriots impending free agents. Asked about the future, he said he continues to focus on the short term.
“I can’t control whatever [the future] is, whatever that narrative and all of that,” he said. “But I can control these next four games and, you know, pour everything into that and make sure I’m doing the right things.”
Belichick and the Patriots will look to make it two wins in a row for the first time this season when they face Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Belichick acknowledged the challenge that goes with trying to slow a player such as Mahomes.
“Against the great player like that, it’s team defense,” Belichick said. “There’s no one guy out there that’s going to stop Mahomes. It’s just impossible. The team has to play well defensively. They have a lot of good skill position players. Good players, good linemen.
“You’ve got to be able to play good team defense. You’ve got to be able to play the run, you’ve got to be able to cover man and zone. Rush the quarterback. Tackle. We’ll need to do all those things.”
Belichick sounded flattered after Jabrill Peppers said Thursday the players were dedicating the win over the Steelers to their coach. “It goes both ways,” Belichick said. “I have a lot of respect for what the team has done. To come in every day and prepare and work hard. We’ve lost some close games, and we won one Thursday night, which was great. So hopefully we can stay on that track and keep finding ways to win those close games.” . . . Belichick said the chance to appear on ESPN’s “College GameDay” was a treat, especially the opportunity to share time with friend Lee Corso. “I’ve had a long, long relationship with Coach Corso,” said Belichick. “Fifty-five years or something like that. A great man, great mentor. Friend. Always had a lot of admiration for Lee and all the things that he’s done as an assistant coach, head coach. All he’s done for the game of football.”