FOXBORO — Like the rest of the near 66,000 packing Gillette Stadium on Monday night, several Patriots players were surprised to see rookie backup Bailey Zappe replace Mac Jones early in the second quarter.
“I didn’t expect,” Pats right guard Mike Onwenu said.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers when asked if he was surprised. “I didn’t make the call, so (I) definitely was surprised.”
Meyers also confirmed reports that Jones took most of the first-team reps during the team’s final practice on Saturday. To the best of his memory, Jones did the same on Thursday and Friday. He said it was tough to watch a player like Jones, who opened with a pair of three-and-outs and an interception, get benched while the crowd chanted “Zap-pe! Zap-pe!”
“Not even as a football player, it’s tough as a man to see somebody who worked so hard get that kind of treatment,” Meyers said. “But at the end of the day, we’re all trying to feed our families, so we’ve got to go out there and make plays for whoever’s throwing it.”
After Zappe led his first touchdown drive, Meyers appeared to encourage Jones 1-on-1 on the sideline. He called the fan reaction part of “an ugly situation.”
“Not even the coaches, just everybody. The crowd, all of it,” Meyers said. “It was an ugly situation, in my opinion.”
After Zappe led a second touchdown drive to put the Pats ahead, the offense stuck to the same quarterback and game plan, but yielded much far worse results. The Bears scored 23 unanswered points, while Zappe threw two picks and led a scoreless second half.
“That’s just how it goes sometimes. You don’t really get to — our say don’t really matter. I’m not saying we would’ve had an opinion either way,” Meyers said of the quarterbacks, “but we’ve just gotta roll with the punches when we’re in there.”
Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson echoed Onwenu and Meyers saying he did not know Jones would get pulled from his first start in four weeks.
“No,” Stevenson told MassLive. “We weren’t aware.”
Even coming out of the tunnel, the quarterback situation was a mystery.
“I didn’t know who was playing or who was starting,” Onwenu said.
A mystery, that is, except to Jones and broadcast partner ESPN, which had NFL insider Adam Schefter hinting at a possible rotation pregame, analyst Troy Aikman saying it wasn’t surprising to see Zappe enter midgame and sideline reporter Lisa Salters learning at halftime that both quarterbacks were supposed to play.