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Patriots

With ineffective Mac Jones pulled for an up-and-down Bailey Zappe, Patriots’ quarterback situation remains hazy

The fans went wild as Bailey Zappe entered the game in the second quarter.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — The return of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones lasted just three drives.

Jones, playing for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 3, started Monday night against Chicago, only to get benched for rookie Bailey Zappe in the second quarter.

According to coach Bill Belichick, however, Jones was not benched. The team planned to play both quarterbacks, he said both during halftime and after the game.

But the circumstances seem to indicate otherwise.

The Gillette Stadium crowd had been clamoring for Zappe to enter the game after Jones struggled to move the chains. The Patriots went three and out on their first two drives, with each punt eliciting boos. On their third drive, they moved into Chicago territory before Jones threw an ill-advised pass that Bears safety Jaquan Brisker intercepted.

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The “Zap-pe! Zap-pe!” chants picked up steam following the turnover and only continued to grow when Zappe took the field for New England’s fourth offensive drive.

When Zappe connected with running back Rhamondre Stevenson for a 20-yard gain, the chants seemingly peaked. But the fans outdid themselves on the next play, when wide receiver Jakobi Meyers hauled in a 30-yard pass and fought to cross the goal line for the team’s first touchdown.

Zappe stayed in at quarterback for the fifth drive, this time leading a three-play, 50-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a monster 43-yard reception by wide receiver DeVante Parker.

Jones completed 3 of his 6 pass attempts for 13 yards before getting pulled. He also scrambled for 24 rushing yards.

Belichick said Jones going back into the game was a possibility, but the score ended up getting out of hand, so the Patriots stuck with Zappe.

Mac Jones was the first to congratulate Bailey Zappe when the rookie started hot, but neither proved convincing in a loss to the Bears.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The excitement surrounding Zappe’s performance proved to be short-lived, though, as the offense failed to score in the second half. New England’s two third-quarter drives ended in three-and-outs, netting just four yards. The two drives in the fourth quarter ended in interceptions, one that was batted at the line of scrimmage and the other swiped out of air by Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon.

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At the time of the final turnover, the majority of fans had cleared out of their seats.

“Can’t fall off like I did,” Zappe said. “I got to make some throws and make better decisions on certain things. That’s the good thing about having another week.”

Zappe finished with 185 passing yards, completing 14 of his 22 pass attempts. He finished with a quarterback rating of 67.4, his lowest mark of the season.

Heading into Monday, Belichick remained tight-lipped on the team’s plans at quarterback. The Patriots may have deemed Jones ready to start, but the questions about the future of the position will inevitably persist after the game.

Is Jones healthy enough to play?

Apparently yes, even though Belichick said his health was a factor in the team’s supposed intent to both play both quarterbacks. Belichick would not elaborate on the benefits of a pre-planned rotation, other than the fact that it was “the best thing to do” based on the situation.

Does Belichick envision a situation where he utilizes both quarterbacks moving forward?

“No, I don’t see that,” Belichick said.

So, who’s the starter moving forward?

“We just finished the game,” he said.

Jones and Zappe echoed Belichick, sharing very little information about what they knew about the plan heading into the game and what their understanding is of the plan moving forward. Both players reiterated they prepare as if they are going to play.

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Based on the events of the past week, the chances that Belichick reveals the starting quarterback for next week’s game against the Jets seem slim to none.

As Jones put it, “I guess when Sunday comes, we’ll know.”



Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.