New England Patriots

Will Patriots push the ball downfield more with Bailey Zappe vs. Steelers?

The Patriots finally attempted a couple deep passes last week vs. Chargers.

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The New England Patriots passing attack didn't have a great day against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.

Bailey Zappe made his first start of the season and completed just 13 of his 25 pass attempts for 141 yards with zero touchdowns. The Patriots were shut out and lost 6-0 in the lowest-scoring NFL game since 2018.

However, there were a few small positives from Zappe's play. For starters, he didn't turn the ball over, which is a genuine improvement over previous starter Mac Jones, whose 12 interceptions are the third-most in the league.

Zappe also completed a few passes beyond 10 yards. That kind of downfield attack has not been a common theme for New England's offense this season, but Zappe revealed Tuesday that it was an adjustment made at halftime last week.

“That was something going into halftime that we talked about,” Zappe said in a press conference. “That in the second half, we wanted to push the ball downfield a little bit.”

Zappe connected with wide receiver DeVante Parker for gains of 20-plus yards on each of the Patriots' first two possessions in the second half versus the Chargers. The second-year QB also threw a deep pass to Tyquan Thornton and another to Parker later in the second half that both probably should have been caught.

Regardless, it was clear the Patriots wanted to launch it downfield with more regularity. Given how difficult scoring a touchdown has been for the Patriots offense in recent weeks -- they have found the end zone only once in the last three games -- it makes sense to try and stretch the field and see if a few big passing plays can hit.

But if those plays are going to be successful, Zappe will need time to throw. The Patriots offensive line gave up five sacks in Week 13, and several of them happened on key third and fourth down plays. The pass protection has to be better, and that'll be a tough challenge against a Steelers defense led by elite pass rusher T.J. Watt.

Kickoff for Patriots-Steelers is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

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