Callahan: Patriots’ upset in Pittsburgh feels bittersweet in the big picture

PITTSBURGH — Would it have been an excessive amount of to ask for a tie?

A approach to salvage pleasure and proceed monitoring for a top-3 choose?


Fine. Call me a scrooge.

Losing was the optimum consequence Thursday night time in Pittsburgh, residence to one of the vital entertaining Patriots video games of the season. The Pats upset the Steelers 21-18, a win that might ripple far into their future. But let’s go away the longer term to the longer term for a second.

How refreshing, how fulfilling, how doggone good did it really feel to look at first rate soccer once more? Thursday introduced scoring, stakes and a decent end. For three candy hours, the doldrums of this depressing season felt distant.

This was prime time. This was an previous AFC rivalry pumping with contemporary blood. This was soccer, in its greatest, most surprising and unpredictable type.

Why can we watch, if not for video games like this? And but, in fact, the perfect consequence for the Patriots was an in depth loss.

The franchise wants a reset. The Pats’ bottom-5 roster expertise can’t get replaced or replenished over these previous couple of weeks, regardless of what number of occasions they win. No quantity of end-of-season momentum can present what they want.

New England Patriots working again Ezekiel Elliott (15) dives for the tip zone on a 15 yard landing reception throughout an NFL soccer recreation, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Only a franchise quarterback can do this, and the highest 10 of the draft is the one constant and dependable place to seek out such a participant on planet earth. The Patriots should discover one there subsequent spring. In the meantime, they’ve Bailey Zappe.

How within the hell do you clarify his efficiency?

In the primary half, the Pats scored eight extra factors than that they had of their earlier three video games mixed. Zappe accomplished as many deep passes as Mac Jones has since Week 2. The three passing touchdowns had been essentially the most the offense had scored in any recreation for the reason that opener. And the Pats marched to their first opening-drive landing of the season.

Zappe asserted himself because the rightful starter the remainder of the season with out controversy, a win for him and his probabilities of remaining in New England. But let’s not rewrite historical past.

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Zappe is identical passer who led the Patriots to seven factors and two turnovers over the past six quarters that led as much as Thursday night time. His profession’s physique of labor paints the portrait of a lifelong backup. Recently, these brush strokes had him coloring outdoors the strains and perhaps out of the league.

But now? He seems like the perfect passer on the Patriots’ roster. Good for him, and the teammates that wanted such a efficiency like oxygen for his or her aggressive souls.

Because the Patriots are nonetheless a defensive staff failed by two phases of their roster. Their particular groups allowed a blocked punt and appeared to leap offsides on a fourth-quarter Steelers punt that will have handed Pittsburgh a contemporary set of downs. The offense went scoreless within the second half.

In latest weeks, one veteran instructed Zappe all of the protection wanted was 21 factors. Well, he delivered, and the Patriots gained.

Let’s get one thing else straight: the Patriots haven’t, usually are not and can by no means interact in tanking.

No coach nor participant nor staffer has deliberately tried to lose this season. Bill Belichick is just too aggressive, too cutthroat, too intent on chasing Don Shula’s all-time wins document to let any shot at victory slip inside his grasp.