5 takeaways from the Patriots’ second win with Bailey Zappe at quarterback

Zappe wasn't the only Patriots rookie to have a good day.

Patriots takeaways
Joshuah Bledsoe of the Patriots celebrates after the win in Cleveland against the Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Patriots defeated the Browns 38-15 on Sunday in Cleveland. New England improved to 3-3 on the season as rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe moved to 2-0 as a starter in place of the injured Mac Jones.

Zappe’s efficient and prolific day was the story, along with the Patriots’ defense having yet another good performance.

It was far from a perfect game, as Bill Belichick’s team committed 12 penalties for 92 yards. A late Cleveland score also briefly caused some moments of anxiety, but a pair of Browns turnovers (followed by Patriots touchdowns) ended the threat.

Here are a few takeaways:

Bailey Zappe stated his case.

Tasked with what appeared to be a simple continuation of the no-frills game-plan from last week’s win over the Lions, Zappe far exceeded expectations against the Browns.


By day’s end, Zappe completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns.

Beyond the numbers, it was the ways in which he was able to orchestrate the offense that seemed reassuring. Instead of simply focusing only on one option through the air, Zappe spread the ball around in a way that belied his youth.

Five different New England receivers made four catches. Four Patriots topped 60 receiving yards, the first time that’s happened since 2017.

As it was clear from the outset that the Browns’ defensive approach revolved around trying to load up against and stop the Patriots’ running game, Zappe was able to find room against Cleveland’s coverage. He made accurate throws and flashed an ability to escape the rush and find the open receiver.

While there will certainly be discussion about the future for the Patriots at the quarterback position — especially when Jones returns — it’s undeniable that the 23-year-old Zappe has given the Patriots exactly what was needed in an early-season crisis.

The defense was solid yet again.

While the Browns’ offense is unlikely to set many scoring records in 2022, the Patriots were still under pressure to contain the league’s leading rusher, Nick Chubb.

Both through early-down stops and solid pass coverage, Belichick’s defense produced yet another strong week.


Chubb, though he was able to find space periodically, never gained consistent traction and was held to 56 yards on 12 carries. Cleveland’s rushing attack as a unit, one of the best in the NFL entering the day, finished with just 70 yards in total.

The Patriots once again won the turnover battle (4-1), setting the tone early with Kyle Dugger’s interception of former Patriot Jacoby Brissett on the opening drive of the game. It was a strong day for Dugger overall, who finished as the team’s leading tackler.

Tyquan Thornton made impactful contributions.

After making two catches in his NFL debut a week ago, rookie second-round wide receiver Tyquan Thornton showed a little more of his ability against the Browns.

Thornton finished with four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. He also showed his speed by taking a fourth quarter end-around in for a 19-yard touchdown.

It’s still early for Thornton, who missed several weeks on injured reserve, but his ability to impact games even with limited touches bodes well for his future in the Patriots’ offense.

The rookie class is playing an important role.

For all of the criticism about the Patriots’ ability to draft and develop talent in recent years, the 2022 class is off to a pretty good start.

First-round pick Cole Strange has been a starter all season. Thornton added two scores and appears to possess dynamic talent.


Zappe, a fourth-round pick, has performed far beyond what any realistic expectations for him might have been even two weeks ago.

Defensively, both Jack Jones and Marcus Jones have done more than simply provide depth, with each contributing on meaningful snaps.

When taken together with the impact of second-year players like Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson, it appears Belichick is building a decent core of younger talent on the roster.

The good, the bad, and the lucky from special teams.

After the Browns scored in the fourth quarter to make it 24-15 (missing the two-point conversion), Cleveland opted to let rookie kicker Cade York try an onside kick.

In a combination of poor coverage from the Patriots and skill on York’s part, the kick was nearly recovered by the Browns. In fact, they did recover the ball, but were judged to be out of bounds (thus giving possession back to New England).

Zappe and the offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but any lingering drama in the game ended when the Browns fumbled the punt recovery and undrafted free agent Brenden Schooler (one of the heroes from the Week 2 win over the Steelers) gratefully pounced on the loose ball.

Thornton scored on the next play, and the game was essentially over. It wasn’t the prettiest of days from the Patriots special teams, but Schooler’s timely positioning helped spare any late potential for a Cleveland comeback.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on