First Encounter: Patriots often bully (or just injure) quarterbacks
First Encounter: Patriots often bully (or just injure) quarterbacks
Bill Belichick gave Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones some high praise this week, something that shouldn’t have come as a surprise. For one, Belichick isn’t the type to give his opponents any bulletin board material. For another, he’s probably in a good mood because he knows he’s probably going to win.
Sunday will mark the 12th time since the start of the 2014 season that the Patriots have faced a starting quarterback against whom they’d never previously played. Partially because some of those quarterbacks were sprung into action due to injury and partially because the Patriots have simply been really good, the results have weighed in New England’s favor, with the Pats winning eight of their 11 previous such games.
Excluding guys previously faced in the regular season or playoffs, here’s a look at how the Pats have done when facing a starting quarterback for the first time over the last three seasons:
Cody Kessler, 2016 Week 5
5-of-8, 62 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Patriots 33, Browns 13
You remember this game because it just happened. You also remember that Kessler wasn’t long for this one, as he left with a rib injury late in the first quarter.
The shame of it for the Browns is that Kessler, who was making his third career start, actually began this one quite nicely. The rookie led a touchdown drive on Cleveland’s second possession, capping it with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Hawkins to tie the score. He then experienced something of a worst-case scenario for a quarterback, suffering an injury on a safety that ended his day.
Marcus Mariota, 2015 Week 15
3-of-6, 32 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Patriots 33, Titans 16
Interesting tidbit: Every time the Patriots have faced a starting quarterback for the first time, they’ve injured him relatively early. Not really, but let’s hope for Jones’ sake that he isn’t superstitious.
Mariota wasn’t in this game for much, but the Pats defense got its money’s worth before he left with a right knee injury. They sacked him three times and forced/recovered a fumble before spending the rest of the afternoon opposing Zach Mettenberger.
Brian Hoyer, 2015 Week 14
11-of-22, 155 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Patriots 27, Texans 6
They hurt this guy, too! A concussion!
The silver lining for Hoyer is that at least he got through this whole game (shoutout to irresponsibility), but as this list will show, former Tom Brady backups haven’t had a particularly fun time against the Patriots. This one was dreadful for Hoyer.
While the only turnover that Hoyer committed was a fourth-quarter fumble (he recovered the other of his two), the veteran QB took a beating last December. He was sacked five times for 54 yards, with Akiem Hicks and Jabaal Sheard picking up two sacks apiece.
Brock Osweiler, 2015 Week 12
23-of-42, 270 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Broncos 30, Patriots 24 (OT)
C.J. Anderson was the hero of this game, but Osweiler did enough to show that the Broncos were warranted in starting him over the old and bad “injured” Peyton Manning.
Osweiler was coming off his first career start, a win over the Bears in which he threw for 250 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no turnovers. It wasn’t quite as smooth sailing when he took on the Pats, as a first-quarter interception while already trailing led to the Pats taking a 14-0 lead, but he recovered nicely.
Denver trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter, but Osweiler led a comeback that saw the Broncos score 17 fourth-quarter points before winning in overtime on Anderson’s 48-yard run.
Kirk Cousins, 2015 Week 9
22-of-40, 217 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Patriots 27, Redskins 10
If you remember this game, it was something of a surprise that Cousins managed the opportunity to even throw 40 passes. After all, the Patriots scored their second touchdown before the Redskins took their second play from scrimmage.
Cousins had actually seen the Patriots before in the 2014 preseason, but that clearly wasn’t enough to prepare him for what ended up being a rough regular-season loss.
Brandon Weeden, 2015 Week 5
26-of-39, 187 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Patriots 30, Cowboys 6
Much like his career in general, Brandon Weeden never stood a chance.
The Pats were 3-0 and the Cowboys were banged-up. Dez Bryant’s broken foot meant that Weeden, who was in his second season in Dallas as Tony Romo’s backup, didn’t have any legitimate weapons outside of Jason Witten and, if you want to call him a dangerous weapon, Darren McFadden.
The teams were tied at 3 through one quarter, but a Tom Brady QB sneak in the second quarter gave the Pats a lead on which they would only build. It helped the Pats’ case that they managed to sack Weeden three times.
Blake Bortles, 2015 Week 3
17-of-33, 242, 2 TD, 1 INT
Patriots 51, Jaguars 17
This reference wouldn’t have made sense at the time, but Blake Bortles got (Wikipedia) clubbed. It also wouldn’t have been true, as Bortles wound up with a deceivingly not-that-bad stat line.
The Pats ran away with this one. They held a 30-3 lead late in the third quarter, with both of Bortles’ touchdowns coming in garbage time. Still, the first of the then-second-year pro’s two touchdown passes was a 59-yard strike in which Allen Hurns burned Malcolm Butler off the line and then beat Duron Harmon.
Kyle Orton, 2014 Week 17
16-of-23, 176 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Bills 17, Patriots 9
The headline for ESPN.com’s game recap probably described this one best: ‘Orton, Bills beat disinterested Patriots 17-9.’
Simply put, that’s exactly what happened in this game. It was Week 17 and the Patriots had already clinched the top seed and homefield advantage in the AFC, so they rested their star players and gave the second half to Jimmy Garoppolo. They probably weren’t beating themselves up over this one.
Alex Smith, 2014 Week 4
20-of-26, 248 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT
Chiefs 41, Patriots 14
Holy smokes! Did you know that 2005 first overall pick Alex Smith had never faced the Patriots before the 2014 season? I did not and neither did you, liar.
Either way, this game is memorable not for that little fun fact, but rather its significance in the disastrous-turned-amazing campaign that was the 2014 New England Patriots season. While Smith was lighting up the New England defense, Tom Brady was turning in his worst performance of the season, throwing a pair of picks and losing a fumble before being yanked for Jimmy Garoppolo with the game out of hand.
Derek Carr, 2014 Week 3
21-of-34, 174 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Patriots 16, Raiders 9
Hey, rookie. Congrats on getting the starting job. Sorry about losing your first two career starts. Anyway, have you met Bill Belichick?
Give Carr credit, as the Raiders stayed within striking distance the whole way, right down to the final minute. With 59 seconds remaining and the Raiders trailing by seven, a Darren McFadden touchdown run was called back due to a holding call. On the next play (first-and-goal from the 12), Carr was intercepted by Vince Wilfork to seal the game in New England’s favor.
Oakland’s Week 3 meeting with the Pats marked the only game in Carr’s first five in which he did not throw at least one touchdown pass.
Matt Cassel, 2014 Week 2
19-of-36, 2020 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
Patriots 30, Vikings 7
While not quite as crazy as the Alex Smith one, it seemed somewhat strange at the time of this meeting that Cassel had yet to face his first team. It didn’t take long for Cassel to be thankful for that fact.
The funny thing about this game is that it actually started well for Cassel, who put the Vikings up early with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Matt Asiata. Things turned quickly, however, and they never got better. Cassel threw picks on two of the next three drives, and when all was said and done, the only thing more painful than his four interceptions were the six sacks he took.