FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Bailey Zappe wasn’t the best player on the field for the Patriots during their matchup with the Lions.
He didn’t need to be.
A week after being called off the bench and thrust into his first NFL regular-season game, the rookie quarterback benefited from a full week of preparation and plenty of support from his teammates during New England’s 29-0 win over Detroit.
The game was the most complementary of the season between the offense and defense. It included a touchdown pass by Zappe, five field goals by Nick Folk and a fumble returned for a touchdown by Kyle Dugger.
“It’s difficult in this league to win games. That’s what we had to do. We had to pitch a shutout,” said linebacker Matt Judon, who had the strip sack on Jared Goff that Dugger returned. “We know that the offense got our back and we got their back. So, when we can get them the ball back in any fashion, that’s what we want to do.”
With the victory, the Patriots (2-3) ended a two-game losing streak and avoided their first 1-4 start since 2000. They also improved to 5-0 under Bill Belichick with quarterbacks drafted outside the first round making their debut start. The rest of the NFL is 30-80 in such games since Belichick became New England’s coach in 2000.
“I think really I felt more comfortable with really everything,” Zappe said. “To have my teammates around me, they helped prepare me a lot this week.”
Now, what once seemed like a perilous situation after Mac Jones and Brian Hoyer were injured looks more than salvageable heading into games against Cleveland (2-3) and Chicago (2-3).
One of the reasons the offense was able to move the ball so well was the steadiness of the run game, led by Rhamondre Stevenson. The second-year running back had a career-high 161 yards rushing, including a 49-yard burst to set up the Patriots’ second field goal. He’s overtaken Damien Harris as the team’s leading rusher with 372 yards.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The red zone continues to be a problem for New England’s offense. The Patriots went 0 for 4 on Sunday and are converting on only 40% (6 of 15) of their chances inside the 20-yard line for the season. That ranks 28th in the league.
Rookie fourth-round pick Jack Jones notched his second interception in two games when he jumped in front of T.J. Hockenson near the end zone for a toe-tapping interception in the first quarter. The defensive back’s emergence adds another layer to a secondary that was already the Patriots’ deepest group on defense.
Isaiah Wynn. With the Patriots just outside of the red zone late in the second quarter, the right tackle was whistled for a holding penalty that took away an opportunity for the Patriots to take a shot at the end zone. It increased his penalty total to six on the season, which is tied with Tennesee’s Nicholas Petit-Frere for the league lead.
Harris left in the first half with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Receiver Nelson Agholor was also sidelined with a hamstring injury in the second half. Cornerback Jonathan Jones left the game with an ankle injury.
90 — The number of home games the Patriots have won when they’ve had a lead of 10 or more points at the half. That’s the longest streak in the NFL.
Belichick may have a decision to make this week if Mac Jones is healthy enough to return for their road matchup against Cleveland. The Patriots may not need Jones to beat a struggling Browns team, and another week of rest is always beneficial coming off an injury.