GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Down to rookie Bailey Zappe -- their third and final quarterback -- the New England Patriots took the Green Bay Packers to the end of overtime before falling 27-24 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The Patriots improbably had a chance to win in overtime, stopping quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the opening possession and taking over at their 49-yard line.
But they went three-and-out and Rodgers drove the Packers 12 plays, from their own 10-yard line, to set up Mason Crosby's 31-yard winning field goal with the clock hitting zero.
"In the end, Rodgers was just too good," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He made some throws that only Rodgers could make. ... I thought Bailey competed well."
Veteran Patriots backup Brian Hoyer, who started in place of the injured Mac Jones, was knocked out on the second series after taking a hard hit on a sack. Hoyer was evaluated for a head injury, and at the start of the second quarter, the team announced he wouldn't return.
Zappe, the fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky, took over for Hoyer. He finished 10-of-15 for 99 yards, with one touchdown, and was sacked three times.
The scoring pass was a 25-yarder to DeVante Parker in the third quarter and was the first TD pass by a rookie in the NFL this season.
"It was exciting at first, a dream come true to play in an NFL game," he said. "It's obviously not the outcome we wanted at all.
Asked when he settled in, Zappe said: "Probably after the first play, after the first handoff. Everything kind of quieted down and I just started giving the ball to the playmakers and letting them do what they do best."
His teammates commended the effort.
"I want to give a huge shoutout to Zappe, the way he stepped up in that game," veteran Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon said. "I don't believe he took that many reps with the [starters in practice], and the way he played and the poise he had, that's amazing for a rookie. That's good for our team."
Added receiver Kendrick Bourne: "Really relaxed. It seemed like he was ready for the moment -- to play in Lambeau Field, crazy crowd. I was proud of that dude. That was really impressive."
Zappe also met with Rodgers on the field after the game.
"He just said, 'Good luck the rest of the way,' and I said the same thing for him. He said, 'Congrats for playing for the first time' and that was about it."
In his Monday morning videoconference, Belichick said Hoyer traveled home with the team after the game but didn't disclose more specifics on his status.
Hoyer went into the pop-up blue medical tent on the sideline and, after about five minutes, emerged from the tent and walked to the locker room for further evaluation.
Hoyer had directed a 10-play, 56-yard opening drive that culminated in a 37-yard field goal to give the Patriots an early 3-0 lead.
He was playing in place of Jones, who suffered a high left ankle sprain at the end of a Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots don't have any other quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. One of their emergency options, receiver Jakobi Meyers, was inactive Sunday because of a knee injury.
After the game, Belichick wouldn't divulge who would have been the fourth option had Zappe been injured. But he acknowledged that contingency plans were discussed once Hoyer was ruled out.
Hoyer wasn't the only Patriots player to leave the game because of an injury, as tight end Jonnu Smith limped off late in the second quarter and went to the locker room for evaluation. He was ruled out with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
The Patriots, in sole possession of last place in the AFC East with a 1-3 record, host the Detroit Lions next Sunday.
The last time the Patriots have been in last place outright in the AFC East was 2014, after Week 1. The only other time under Belichick that they have been in last place outright came in his first season, 2000, when they held last place outright in all 17 weeks that season.