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Pats bring QB circus, 12-game win streak over Jets into tilt

Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets free safety Marcus Maye (20) tackles New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

For the better part of 20 years, there were never any questions as to who would be starting under center for the New England Patriots.

But now there are plenty, and the Patriots have some decisions to make regarding their quarterback situation ahead of Sunday’s meeting with the host New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

After backup quarterback Bailey Zappe appeared in three games, making two starts, Mac Jones made his return on Monday night against the Chicago Bears just four weeks removed from sustaining a high-ankle sprain.

Jones threw just six passes, including one interception, before the New England faithful turned on him. Boos rained down from the stands followed by chants calling for Zappe to enter the game, and sure enough, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the switch.

“It’s tough as a man to see somebody who worked so hard get that kind of treatment,” New England wide receiver Jakobi Meyers said. “But at the end of the day, we all trying to feed our families, so we got to go out there and make plays.”

Zappe did provide a spark, though. He connected with Meyers for a 30-yard touchdown and led the Patriots (3-4) on a three-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 4-yard rushing TD from Rhamondre Stevenson that gave New England a 14-10 lead.

However, the Patriots fell apart from there, surrendering 23 unanswered points in losing 33-14.

When asked if Jones and Zappe were competing for the starting job, Belichick wasn’t willing to show his hand — to say the least.

“Yeah, I’m not saying that,” Belichick said. “We’ll talk about it later. See how it goes.”

However, ESPN reported Wednesday that Jones will get the start in New York.

The Jets (5-2) are dealing with offensive adversity of their own, as they lost breakout rookie running back Breece Hall for the season in their 16-9 win over the Denver Broncos last Sunday.

Hall rushed for a 62-yard score and finished with 72 yards on four carries before being carted to the locker room with a knee injury that was later diagnosed as a torn ACL.

It didn’t take long for the Jets to bring in reinforcements, though.

New York traded for Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson on Monday. Robinson has 81 carries for 340 yards and four total touchdowns (three rushing) in seven games (five starts), and he will compete for touches alongside Michael Carter and Ty Johnson.

“He’s a one-cut runner, he gets downhill in a hurry. Really, really good compliment to what Ty Johnson and Michael bring to the table,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Obviously losing Breece is a big blow, but James Robinson’s a pretty good football player.”

Aside from Hall’s injury, it’s been a remarkable season thus far for New York, which is off to its best start since 2010 and has not lost a game with Zach Wilson at quarterback.

Wilson has guided the Jets to a four-game winning streak, but that could be in jeopardy on Sunday considering the Patriots have won 12 straight games against New York and 15 of the last 16.

Wide receiver Corey Davis (knee) and defensive end John Franklin-Myers (illness) did not practice on Wednesday for the Jets.

Center David Andrews (concussion), safety Kyle Dugger (ankle) and defensive tackle Christian Barmore (knee) were non-participants in New England’s Wednesday practice. Wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor were limited.

–Field Level Media