Patriots

Patriots Report Card: Did Bailey Zappe Pass His First Test as an NFL QB?

Perry's Report Card: Pats needed more from front seven vs. Packers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

GREEN BAY -- The Patriots, for the most part, wanted it to be known they weren’t looking at Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss as a moral victory.

“No participation trophies,” said David Andrews. 

“Ain’t no moral victories,” said Matthew Judon.

But all acknowledged that there was something the Patriots showed in taking Green Bay to a fifth period -- despite being down to their third quarterback -- that was worth building off.

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“I think we showed a lot of character tonight,” said Matthew Slater. “It's been a long time since I've been as proud of a group as I am tonight. Just to go out there, with everything that was going on in the game, all the odds stacked against us. To come out and compete says a lot about who we are.”

Slater acknowledged that feeling the way he was feeling is unusual following a loss. Particularly for someone who has seen as much winning as Slater has now in his 15th season with the Patriots.

“I don't get too big on the moral victories,” he explained. “Maybe my son playing peewee soccer, but that's about it. I think we have to be encouraged by this. We have to try to find a way to build upon it. Eventually we have to find a way to get the results that we want, which are wins. Hopefully we can do that soon.”

Preaching patience isn’t easy, players admitted. 

“Can't guarantee wins,” Andrews said. “But if we compete and work like we did out there today, the results will take care of themselves eventually. I think that's what we have to do each week. ...We come in there, already down a quarterback. Lose another quarterback second drive. Against a really good team. Top-10 defense. To hell with it. Let's go play ball.

"I think that says a lot about the team, a lot about the guys in that locker room.”

As Kendrick Bourne said, the Patriots are looking at the season in quarters, and Sunday’s loss -- which moved them to 1-3 and last place in the AFC East -- represented the end of the first quarter. Last year, the Patriots had the same record through four games.

“We went on a run last year,” Bourne said. “Not to compare, but we went on that seven-game win streak. When you lose, you have a lot to evaluate. I'm excited to get back to work, man. We got people down, but Bailey [Zappe] showed he can handle the load so far. The more reps he gets the better he'll get. ...I'm just excited to see where we take it. We just gotta move forward and hopefully go (to) 2-3 against another good team.

Bourne added: “We fought well and competed well. That's the moral victory. We didn't just get blown out. We didn't just give up. We fought to the end. That's a good team over there... We just gotta keep our heads up and keep working.”

Moral victory or no moral victory, we still have some grades to hand out… 

Quarterback: B-

Let's start with Brian Hoyer, who did see two series in this one. His corner route to Nelson Agholor for 27 yards was impressive given that he took a shot off his right side as he released the ball. His worst throw was probably one that was off the mark on a screen that led to a 1-yard loss.

Zappe entered and completed consecutive RPOs -- something the Patriots may use more of if he's forced to play again in Week 5 -- and then had one of his better throws of the day dropped by Agholor on second-and-12. Zappe's limited arm strength showed at times as he struggled to get much on the ball when throwing off-platform. And he was a tick late to read out a handful of attempts, including one that resulted in a long completion to Agholor but might've gone for a touchdown had he pulled the trigger a second sooner.

Still, to be ready in that moment, to handle the huddle the way his teammates described, to show enough poise to not give the game away, it was an impressive effort from the rookie.

Running back: A-

Arguably the best position group on the roster, the duo of Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris came up big again on Sunday. They combined for 152 yards on 32 carries and as a tandem combined to approach 5.0 yards per carry for the third straight week.

Stevenson was impressive in running through potential tackles, forcing three misses and picking up 4.0 yards after contact per attempt, per Pro Football Focus. Harris showed tremendous vision, cutting back near the goal line to score his third touchdown of the year on a wide-zone play.

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"You want to be a physical group," Andrews said. "You say that, (but) you gotta go earn it. You gotta go prove it. I thought we tried to do that today. Some things here or there we gotta clean up as a whole, (but) the coaches have confidence in us and we give them confidence, too."

Special teams: C

Marcus Jones' work as a kick returner keeps this grade afloat. He finished the game with a punt-return average of almost 25.0 yards and a kick-return average of almost 28.0. Penalties hurt the Patriots on the field, but both the horse-collar tackle called on Brenden Schooler (questionable) and the illegal block called on Cody Davis (an obvious whiff by the officiating crew), don't hurt this mark.

Perry: Patriots' rookie class flashes upside in loss to Packers

Jake Bailey's punts, though, do. Of his seven punts, two were touchbacks that bounded into the end zone. He also had a chance to blast one and flip the field late in the fourth quarter that he shanked.

Defensive line: C-

You knew it would be a challenge for the interior of the Patriots line to remain stout against a top-10 rushing attack like Green Bay's without Lawrence Guy. But to this extent?

The Packers averaged a whopping 5.7 yards per carry with their downhill, Kyle Shanahan-style, Matt LaFleur-infused rushing attack. Davon Godchaux, Carl Davis and Christian Barmore all had their issues in the running game.

And in the pass game, they weren't much better. Deatrich Wise gets credit for a couple of pressures, and Barmore got a hit on Aaron Rodgers, but there was a dearth of game-changing stops for this unit Sunday.

Linebacker: C-

This group deserves just as big a slice of the blame pie for the Packers run-game production. And in the passing game, they were taken advantage of at times by Rodgers. On the Robert Tonyan touchdown pass, Ja'Whaun Bentley didn't get a helpful chip from Anfernee Jennings on that snap, and then Bentley had a hard time pushing Tonyan to his help at safety.

Mack Wilson appears to have made his way to the dog house -- just a couple of weeks after making a tremendously athletic play to help create a Jalen Mills pick -- playing just 10 snaps and giving way to Jahlani Tavai across situations.

The way you know Bill Belichick sees an issue with this unit? He's signed Jamie Collins for the fourth time, this time to the practice squad. 

Secondary: B+

Any chance we look back at Jack Jones' "disrespectful" quote in his postgame press conference at Lambeau Field as the moment we knew Jones really could play? That is the classic kind of cornerback confidence -- bordering on bravado -- that seems necessary for success at that spot.

Some kind of day for the rookie fourth-rounder. Not only did he take an obscenely rare Rodgers pick to the house, he also created and recovered a first-quarter fumble. Was he exposed in the run game at times? Sure. But he has natural playmaking ability and the kind of quick-transition ability that veteran teammates drool over.

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