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The Lane Breakdown: 10 takeaways from the Patriots’ loss to the Packers

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 27-24 loss to Packers

The New England Patriots lost a hard-fought game to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday afternoon, falling 27-24 at Lambeau Field.

Despite the final score, the Patriots played arguably their best game of the season but simply couldn’t come away with the victory. Although they lost, there were a lot of positives to take away from the game.

So, with that said, let’s get into our ten takeaways from the Week 4 battle.

1. There are no moral victories, but Sunday came close: The Patriots were 9.5-point underdogs headed into the game on Sunday, and then had to watch quarterback Brian Hoyer — who already started in place of an injured Mac Jones — go down with a concussion. Hoyer’s injury forced rookie Bailey Zappe to come out and play for the first time in his career.

Given those facts, it is pretty remarkable that the Patriots were able to keep the game as close as they did. The defense stepped up, and made life difficult for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, keeping the team in the game until the very end.

While the Patriots couldn’t come up with the key plays at the end, performing as well as they did given the competition, circumstances and the environment they were in was nothing short of impressive. That could also mean that some good things are coming in their future.

2. Bailey Zappe played well, but had his rookie moments: When Brian Hoyer went down early in the game, the Patriots had to hand the keys over to their fourth-round draft pick from earlier this year. Bailey Zappe was not just playing in his first regular season game, he also was part of the game-day roster for the first time this season.

Overall, he played pretty well, completing 10 of 15 pass attempts for 99 yards and a touchdown. However, he definitely had some rookie mistakes where he held onto the ball too long. One of them ended up being a fumble (that didn’t hurt the Patriots because fellow rookie Jack Jones had a pick-six on the ensuing drive), and taking a few of the sacks late was crushing for New England’s chances down the stretch.

It is tough to perform in the situation he was put in, but Zappe handled himself quite well. We will see if he has a chance to build on that performance next week and with Jones still nursing his ankle injury and Hoyer in concussion protocol.

3. Jack Jones steps up: Starting cornerback Jalen Mills was declared out on Sunday due to a hamstring injury, and the Patriots needed someone to step up. That someone was rookie Jack Jones.

First, the fourth-round draft choice stripped the ball from Romeo Doubs, and then recovered it. Then, at the end of the first half, he picked off Aaron Rodgers and took the interception back to house for a pick-six.

His debut in the starting lineup certainly wasn’t perfect, and the Packers appeared to take advantage of his his size in the open field. However, the Patriots need guys that make game-changing plays, and Jones has shown an ability to do that in his young career. He is deserving of more playing time, and I think it should be coming.

4. Marcus Jones makes an impact on special teams: The other rookie named Jones made his presence felt in the return game on Sunday. He was finally put back to return punts, taking over for Myles Bryant, and he had two runbacks; one for 20 yards and another for 29. He also had a few good kickoff returns as well.

Jones immediately showed that it was the right call to put him in there; his straight-line speed and vision in the return game are rare and the youngster looked like he can break a big play at any moment. Having someone like that to help shift field position is big for a team such as Patriots reliant on playing complementary football.

5. Myles Bryant appears to be on thin ice: Not only was he replaced by Marcus Jones in the punt return game, Bryant also struggled mightily against Randall Cobb in the slot. Bill Belichick loves his reliable players, but sometimes those guys just cannot compete with the talent on the other side of the field. That is what has happened to Bryant all season; he cannot consistently stand his ground against the guys on the other side.

With Jack Jones emerging, it might be time to move him back into a reserve role. Going with Jones and Jalen Mills as the starting outside cornerbacks, and moving Jonathan Jones back into the slot, could very well turn out to be the best lineup moving forward.

6. Kendrick Bourne just keeps making plays: What do you know? Kendrick Bourne had another solid game for the Patriots.

The second-year wideout continues to get open rather consistently, and good things happen when the Patriots get him the ball. He should be playing more than he is, because, other than Jakobi Meyers, he has been New England’s most consistent receiver this season.

He still did not play enough against Green Bay, but he did get a few more looks and didn’t disappoint. His 15-yard run in the second quarter, for example, was New England’s second longest of the day.

The Patriots need to get him the ball more, and to do that, he needs to be on the field more.

7. New England goes conservative at the end of the game: The Patriots were in the game all the way to the end, but they may have been doomed by some conservative play-calling down the stretch. The biggest one may have been the decision to punt on 4th-and-5 around midfield instead of going for it. The Patriots would not get the ball back, and it was a similar situation to the Cowboys game last year, when they punted in a similar situation and lost on a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

New England was also playing way off the receivers on the final defensive series, and the Packers were able to march right down the field by running the ball and throwing short passes. Bill Belichick has seemingly gotten more conservative at the end of the games for the last few years. Sometimes, however, you might need to be aggressive to give yourself the best chance of winning games in the NFL.

8. Dominating run game: The Patriots had a good amount of success running the football on Sunday. Rhamondre Stevenson had a very good day, running for 66 yards on 14 carries; Damien Harris ran for 86 and a touchdown on 18 attempts.

The two of them did a good job finding holes and keeping the legs moving through contact. The offensive line was also able to open up some solid holes and significantly help out their backs.

The Patriots have shown the ability to run the ball against almost any team and any front, and that was no different on Sunday. They are a running team first, and, if they can dominate like that, they can win some games, even if Mac Jones isn’t the quarterback.

9. What comes next? The Patriots are facing questions that go beyond the obvious one at quarterback.

Is Isaiah Wynn going to lose his job to Marcus Cannon, for example? Wynn was terrible on Sunday, and Cannon was a dominant run blocker. There’s no way to know who will be better long term, but the Patriots might have seen enough of Wynn this season.

Then there is the QB question. Will Mac Jones be ready for the game against the Detroit Lions? Will Brian Hoyer be back from the concussion that knocked him out of the game? The Patriots will have to answer those questions over the course of this week.

10. An amazing atmosphere at Lambeau Field: The atmosphere surrounding, and then inside, Lambeau Field was absolutely electric. Tons of history there, but the stadium is in pristine condition. Fans couldn’t have been nicer, and it was a surreal experience visiting for the first time.

I will be taking a tour of the stadium on Monday and spending some time at the Packers Hall of Fame, and I am excited to be able to visit a place that has seen so much history. They also have modeled some of the things around the stadium after the way Robert Kraft has done things at Patriot Place, which is pretty cool and speaks about the respect New England enjoys elsewhere.

Overall, with a great game, and awesome tailgate, and a house right on the water, it has been an experience that I won’t soon forget.