Here’s Important Difference Between Brian Hoyer’s Last, Next Start

Hoyer was thrust into a tough situation in 2020

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September 28

FOXBORO, Mass. — Barring a miraculous Mac Jones recovery, Brian Hoyer will be the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback this Sunday.

The parallels to Hoyer’s last Patriots start are easy to draw. Both came in Week 4, against a generationally talented opposing QB, at an iconic NFL venue, in place of New England’s ailing preferred starter.

But Hoyer’s fill-in spot against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs two years ago and his expected start this week against Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers aren’t totally analogous. This time, the 36-year-old signal-caller will have the benefits of time and preparation on his side.

Early in the 2020 season, Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on a Friday night, two days before the Patriots were set to face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Hoyer found out the following morning that he’d need to start against the defending Super Bowl champs. This revelation came after Newton had spent the entire week taking first-team reps, running an offense that had been redesigned to fit his unique skill set. The game eventually was postponed to Monday, with the Patriots flying into KC just hours before kickoff.

Hoyer was thrust into an unfavorable situation, and he — perhaps unsurprisingly in retrospect — struggled, costing the Patriots at least six points with costly mental errors in the red zone as Kansas City won 26-10. Head coach Bill Belichick benched Hoyer for Jarrett Stidham in the second half of that game and subsequently demoted him to third string, making him inactive for New England’s final 12 games.

Circumstances are different this time around.

Though Belichick has yet to officially rule Jones out for Sunday’s matchup in Green Bay, all indications are the high ankle sprain Jones suffered last week against Baltimore will sideline him for at least this game, and likely more. The Patriots can operate this week with the expectation that Hoyer will be their starting QB, and he can do the same.

“Look, it’s obviously more beneficial than finding out Saturday morning that Cam has COVID,” Hoyer said after taking first-team reps in practice Wednesday with Jones sidelined. “I’m thinking to myself (at the time), ‘I have COVID, I was around him all day yesterday.’ That was a unique year, a unique situation. For me, if I get to take more practice reps, that obviously is beneficial, and hopefully you take that.

“Coach Belichick always says … practice execution becomes gameday reality. I know Julian (Edelman) likes to use that one a lot. I’ve heard it a million times. Obviously, I hope it translates to that.”

Of course, a week of prep doesn’t guarantee Hoyer will perform Sunday. He’s lost his last 11 starts dating back to 2016 — a drought that spans stints with four different teams — and the mistakes he committed in Kansas City were the type that a player with his experience should not make regardless of the situation.

On the first, he took a sack and allowed time to expire in the first half, mistakenly believing the Patriots had a timeout remaining. Later, his internal clock malfunctioned on a strip-sack that ruined a prime scoring opportunity, prompting Belichick to pull the plug and go to Stidham. Both gaffes came while the Chiefs were nursing a 6-3 lead, and a simple incompletion in either instance would have set up Nick Folk for a chip-shot field-goal try.

Hoyer clearly believes he’s a better player than he showed that night at Arrowhead (“I don’t think I’d still be here if I wasn’t,” he said) but downplayed the motivation of trying to erase that memory with a strong performance against the Packers.

“I mean, look, I’ve played for 14 years, I have a lot of bad memories,” he said. “I have a lot of good memories, too. One game doesn’t define me, one play doesn’t define me. I’m excited for any opportunity I get to go play. I really could (not) care less about that.”

Hoyer’s backup will be fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe, who has yet to dress for a regular-season NFL game.

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New England Patriots quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Mac Jones
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