QB Jones returns, but questions grow for Pats after loss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Mac Jones is back for the New England Patriots.

But his return hasn’t alleviated their uncertainty at quarterback.

In fact, it may have made it even murkier with the Patriots suddenly in the cellar of the AFC East they used to dominate.

Coach Bill Belichick was noncommittal Tuesday on what direction he’ll go moving forward following Jones’ benching in favor of Bailey Zappe after just three series in Monday’s 33-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Belichick reiterated for the second straight day that he planned to play both quarterbacks and that Jones’ performance — 3 of 6 passing for 13 yards and an interception — wasn’t the reason for him being benched in the second quarter.

Although, he acknowledged the health of Jones’ ankle did at least play some part in the move.

“There’s a lot of things that went into that,” Belichick said. “It’s more complicated than that. But I’ll just leave it as we did what we felt was best for the team and the players involved. Obviously, it didn’t work out. But that was the decision.”

Zappe briefly gave the Patriots some life, leading two touchdown drives that took less than four minutes to give his team a 14-10 lead in the second quarter.

But the offense had no points on five drives in the second half, which included both of Zappe’s interceptions.

“Just got to get better. Can’t fall off like I did,” Zappe said. “I’ve got to make some throws. I’ve got to make better decisions on certain things. That’s the good thing about having another week. Get back at it tomorrow.”

While overall he was more efficient than Jones in the game, Zappe is basically back at square one this week as he waits to see if he gets his third start of the season.

New England (3-4) also finds itself in a position it’s rarely been in under Belichick, at the bottom of the division as it begins a short week of preparation before facing the New York Jets (5-2), who have won four in a row.

“We don’t have time to sulk or feel sorry for ourselves,” safety Devin McCourty said. “The Jets will be ahead on the film. They’ll be watching us, so we need to do the same thing. We need to turn the page and start preparing. We go down to New Jersey, we could easily come back with another loss.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Cornerback Myles Bryant had one of the few highlights for the defense, pulling in his first interception of the season to set up Rhamondre Stevenson’s 4-yard rushing TD in the second quarter. Zappe also seems to work well with receiver DeVante Parker. He pulled in a 43-yard reception from Zappe that was New England’s longest play of the game.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

A week after looking as if it was starting to figure things out, New England’s defense looked lost at times against a Bears offense that used the running ability of quarterback Justin Fields to spread out the Patriots. Fields’ mobility helped Chicago score a season-high 33 points despite entering the game ranked 31st in the NFL, averaging 15.5 points per game.

STOCK UP

Matt Judon. The linebacker stood out on a rough night, tallying 2 1/2 sacks to bring his season total to an NFL-best 8 1/2.

STOCK DOWN

Mac Jones. Following the briefest start of his young career, he suddenly is facing his most important week of practice to date.

INJURED

Center David Andrews was examined for a concussion late in the fourth quarter after being leveled by a blindside block by Mike Pennel during a runback following an interception by Zappe. The loss of the Patriots’ longest-tenured offensive lineman would be significant for a group coming off its worst outing of the season. Safety Kyle Dugger also left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

KEY NUMBER

2001 — That was the previous year that the Patriots trailed the Jets by two games in the division.

NEXT STEPS

An already short week will be even more hectic for the Patriots as they try to clean things up before hitting the road to face a Jets team they have beaten 12 straight times. New York’s previous win in the series was in 2015.

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