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It remains to be seen whether Bill Belichick can win a Super Bowl sans Tom Brady, but there is no question the man can still coach up a team led by a backup rookie quarterback.
The New England Patriots demolished the Detroit Lions, who entered the week with the most explosive offense in the NFL, 29-0, with fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe making his first career start.
“Bailey made a lot of good decisions, was accurate with the ball,” Belichick said after the win, via the official transcript. “Thought he showed some poise there at some pressure situations where he got out of it and found an open receiver, made good decisions.”
Belichick and his staff had a good plan for the rookie and could stick with it after generating a big lead with a smothering defense. Zappe finished 17-of-21 passing (81 percent) for 188 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 100.0 passer rating.
Zappe became the first rookie drafted in the fourth round or later to win his first career start in the first five weeks of a season since 2001 — the last late-round QB to win an early-season debut start was Carolina’s Chris Weinke in Week 1, 2001. The previous four such QBs all lost their debut start (including the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott and the Bears’ Kyle Orton in Week 1 of the 2016 and 2005 seasons, respectively).
Winning with a rookie backup is becoming old hat for Belichick.
Zappe is the fifth QB drafted outside the first round to make his first NFL start for the Patriots in the Belichick era. All five won their debut start.
Non-first-round QBs for all other teams are 30-80 (.270 win percentage) in that span.
Zappe became one of two QBs with an 80-plus completion percentage, 100-plus passer rating and one or fewer INTs on 20-plus pass attempts in his first career start in the last 20 seasons. The other? Aaron Rodgers in Week 1, 2008
From Belichick to teammates, each quote raved about the rookie’s control of the offense in his first start.
“He did a great job. Had a lot of control,” tight end Hunter Henry said. “Great job in the huddle, poised. We knew that going into the game, I mean, he did a great job. He did that last week and was able to control the game really well.”
With an uncertain timeline on Mac Jones‘ ankle injury, the Pats have proven in the last two weeks they can compete with a fourth-round rookie under center. While not every team will sport a woeful defense like Detroit, Week 6 brings a trip to Cleveland, where the Browns haven’t exactly been playing solid D of late, either.
“It always feels better getting a win,” Zappe said of his first start. “We played team football today. Defense pitched a shutout. O-line played really well. Receivers played well. It was a team effort today, and it was nice to get the win.”
Panthers QB Baker Mayfield suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports. Backup QB P.J. Walker is in line to start vs. Rams.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday that RB Rashaad Penny suffered a broken fibula that will end his season.
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Matt Rhule has been fired as head coach of the Panthers after starting his third season with a 1-4 record. Defensive passing game coordinator/secondary coach Steve Wilks will replace Rhule as the interim coach.
The Commanders fell short of victory Sunday against the Titans, but Brian Robinson’s return to the lineup six weeks after being shot provided a personal win.
Jets rookie RB Breece Hall provided a spark for the second straight week with 197 scrimmage yards in a blowout win over Miami.
The Giants won four games in 2021 under Joe Judge. Through five games of the Brian Daboll era, Big Blue has already matched that win total, moving to 4-1 after Sunday’s comeback upset over the Packers in London.
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is the game’s biggest special-teams advantage, and he proved it again on Sunday night with a 43-yard game-winning kick.
The Browns are acquiring former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a late-round draft swap, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Hill rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another score in New Orleans’ 39-32 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Hill was brought in for key situations throughout the game to provide another offensive option for the Saints, and his contributions helped New Orleans come out on top in the back-and-forth contest.
Sunday’s Falcons-Buccaneers game included a controversial roughing the passer penalty on Falcons DT Grady Jarrett. Referee Jerome Boger defended the call after the game.
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Behind Bailey Zappe, Bill Belichick's Patriots move to 5-0 with non-first-round QBs making first starts – NFL.com
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