Six seasons ago, Brian Hoyer was in almost the exact same position he’s in now: preparing to start in place of an injured starting quarterback (Jay Cutler) at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers as a member of the Chicago Bears.
His one and only start against the Packers had a far-from-pleasant finish.
With the Bears driving late in the second quarter of that game down 3-0, Hoyer can still remember dropping back to pass at midfield.
“I had Alshon [Jeffery] open down the field, but I just couldn’t get it to him,” he told WEEI in the locker room on Wednesday.
Why? Because pressure collapsed the pocket up the middle quickly, and Hoyer was hit as he threw. As he fell, former Packers linebacker Clay Matthews drove his helmet into Hoyer’s left forearm — a play for which Matthews was fined — breaking the quarterback’s arm and forcing him from the game. "That's the only bone I've ever broken," he added with a rueful smile.
Though he ended that particular game an ugly 4-for-11 passing for 49 yards, that injury ended arguably the best stretch of football Hoyer had played in the NFL. In six games with the Bears that year (five starts), he completed 134 of his 200 passes (67 percent) for six touchdowns, three interceptions and a 98.0 passer rating, including a 397-yard outing against the Colts.
But most only remember that he went 1-4 in his five starts and that his streak of 11 straight losses as a starter began after he beat the Detroit Lions in his first relief appearance.
A year to the date of that Lions win, he’ll get a chance to turn things around. (Not that anyone is betting on that happening against a superior Packers team.)
Hoyer’s most recent start with the Patriots was a dud against the Kansas City Chiefs in relief of Cam Newton, who was announced out with COVID-19 a day before the originally scheduled game time on Sunday. When the game was actually played on Tuesday, Hoyer took the field without a single snap of practice time.
That’s not the case this time around.
“One game doesn’t define me. One play doesn’t define me. I’m excited for any opportunity I get a chance to go play,” he said. “… That was a unique year. A unique situation. So for me, if I get to take more practice reps that obviously is beneficial.”
Still, a good deal of fans would like to see Bailey Zappe take the field instead — to have the pleasure of opening the mystery box instead of unwrapping the boring Christmas sweater you get every year.
The only problem: Zappe is not ready to start an NFL game and proved as much during training camp and preseason. A few weeks of practice time (in which he’s probably barely played, by the way) would not have made him significantly better.
So the Patriots will go with the known commodity for now — the one they believe has the best chance of keeping the offense afloat until Jones returns. (They’re reportedly holding out hope it won’t be long.)
In what could be his last chance to start in the NFL, Hoyer hopes to channel some of what he had six years ago — not 2020 in Kansas City — in his return to Green Bay.