FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Nostalgia was draped over the New England Patriots on Sunday, from the team’s throwback, 1980s-era jerseys to the minuteman logo painted at midfield.
The Patriots capped the throwback day by turning in an old-school performance.
Rookie Bailey Zappe threw a touchdown pass in his first career start, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a career-high 161 yards, and the Patriots overwhelmed the Detroit Lions 29-0.
Kyle Dugger returned a fumble 59 yards for a touchdown for the Patriots as the defense and ground game gave Zappe plenty of support. The rookie completed 17 of 21 passes for 188 yards with Mac Jones out for the second straight week with an ankle injury and backup Brian Hoyer on injured reserve following a concussion.
“It’s kind of like I’ve always been told, take advantage of your opportunity,” Zappe said.
A week after he asked teammates to help him calm down in the huddle as he navigated his first NFL regular-season appearance, he found himself showered with late-game chants of “Zappe! Zappe!”
He had miscues, including a fumble after a botched exchange with Stevenson. He also had a pass intercepted when his slant to Nelson Agholor was mishandled, tipped in the air and picked off by De’Shon Elliott.
But coach Bill Belichick said Zappe’s poise was apparent.
“He was confident out there,” Belichick said. “He does a good job of seeing the game, can come off and articulate what he saw. And he’s usually right.”
Matt Judon had a pair of sacks for New England (2-3), which held Detroit’s top-ranked offense without a touchdown for the first time this season. The Lions (1-4) were shut out for the first time since 2020.
“To me it’s about as bad as it gets. It’s the worst,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “It’s where we’re at. Sometimes it’s going to get bad before it gets better. I believe we’ve hit rock bottom, now the only place to go is back up.”
Stevenson carried the ball 25 times and had a 49-yard run to set up New England’s second field goal of the game. Jakobi Meyers had seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Jared Goff was 19 of 35 for 229 yards with an interception and a fumble.
Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown returned for Detroit after sitting out last week with an ankle injury. But New England’s defense took advantage of a team that was without running back D’Andre Swift and receiver D.J. Chark, stopping the Lions six times on fourth down.
Detroit’s absences were particularly apparent when it drove deep into Patriots territory late in the second quarter.
Facing third-and-2 on the Patriots 25, Craig Reynolds ran for a loss of 7 yards. The Lions went for it on fourth down, but Judon sacked and stripped Goff. Dugger scooped up the ball and returned it for the score.
Rookie defensive back Jack Jones also had an interception in the end zone to help set up one of three Patriots’ field goals in the first half as they took a 16-0 lead into the break.
Detroit defensive back Saivion Smith was carted off the field following a collision early in the first quarter.
He remained on the field, lying face down on his side following the Patriots’ second offensive play.
Trainers immediately called for a stretcher. Smith was on the field for several minutes as an ambulance was driven onto the field. The entire Lions bench emptied and Smith’s teammates circled him before he was loaded and driven off.
The Lions announced he had been taken to a hospital to be evaluated for a neck injury.
Campbell said after the game that Smith had use of all his motor skills and he was hopeful Smith would be on the team flight back to Detroit.
Lions: CB Will Harris left in the first half with a groin injury. … Elliott left in the second half with cramps. … S Ifeatu Melifonwu left with an ankle injury.
Patriots: RB Damien Harris left in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return. … Agholor was sidelined with a hamstring injury in the second half. … CB Jonathan Jones left with an ankle injury.
The Patriots improved to 5-0 under Belichick with quarterbacks drafted outside the first round making their debut start. The rest of the NFL is 30-80 in such games since Belichick became New England’s coach in 2000.
The Lions came in averaging a league-best 35 points per game. Detroit is the second team in the past 25 seasons to enter a game leading the league in scoring and get shut out.
Lions: Bye next week. At Dallas on Oct. 23.
Patriots: At Cleveland next Sunday.