Bailey Zappe appears likely to make his 2nd straight start for the offensively challenged Patriots

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — All signs point to quarterback Bailey Zappe making his second straight start for the New England Patriots on Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 2022 fourth-round pick addressed the media from the podium on Tuesday, usually a good sign when trying to figure out who will be under center for the next game. Still, Zappe prefers to have coach Bill Belichick make the official declaration in advance of the prime-time matchup.

“Coach has made it pretty clear, but I’ll let him announce it to everyone,” Zappe said. “That’s private right now, and whenever he announces it, that’s with him. I try to prepare every week like I’m the guy. Nothing different from me.”

Zappe’s first start of the season didn’t feature a turnover, an area that plagued Mac Jones during the 11 games he started for New England this year. But there was more bad news than good: Zappe didn't lead the Patriots to the end zone in a 6-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Patriots have lost five straight and rank last in scoring offense (12.3 points per game).

“There were some misreads and misfires by me. Just been working on that stuff as much as possible,” Zappe said. “There weren’t any questions as far as the operation. We didn’t have any questions as far as the plays. We got to the line (of scrimmage) and we were rolling.”

Because of the quick turnaround, Zappe spent a portion of Sunday night preparing for a Pittsburgh team that’s in the AFC playoff mix. The Patriots held their lone on-field practice of the week on Tuesday.

“We have a short week so it’s about mental reps,” Zappe said.

Not much has gone well for the Patriots this season. The team has lost 10 games for the first time since 2000, Belichick's first season on the New England sideline.

But the 24-year-old Zappe is finding some positives from the work he's put in to get an opportunity to start.

After all, he was released by the Patriots near the end of training camp. He signed to the practice squad with the team that drafted him, then made the 53-man roster ahead of the season opener. And now he's fielding questions from the podium.

“It’s been a long ride. (Sunday) was an amazing opportunity,” he said. “This is the place I want to be. I want to play for guys that I have built a relationship with over the past two years. I want to play for (offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien) and coach Belichick.”

Zappe believes he's been able to stay levelheaded during the Patriots' ugly season.

“Control what you can control. It’s what we say around here. I’m not really big into those things. I’m really cool, calm, and collected,” Zappe said. “That’s how my dad brought me up. That’s how my mom brought me up. I don’t really try to dive into trying to overwhelm myself. I try to control what I can control. Whatever my read is, I try to do my best. If something happens and I make a mistake, I try to go back and learn from it. I try to not really dive into and ride the roller coaster.”

NOTES: It’s likely the Patriots won’t have leading rusher Rhamondre Stevenson on Thursday. Stevenson was injured in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, and he did not participate in Tuesday’s practice.

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