PATS REPORTER

Perry: Hoyer's end-of-half brain freeze killed Pats' momentum

PATS REPORTER

It made sense at the time. Really, it did. When Cam Newton was placed on the COVID-reserve list, making him ineligible to play Week 4 against the Chiefs, the logical decision was to make Brian Hoyer the replacement. 

Hoyer had practiced throughout the week leading up to the game as the No. 2. He knew the offense better than any other Patriots quarterback. In theory, he would be immune to the rookie-like mistakes that could plague second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who had no preseason and was a healthy scratch in the team's first three games of the season.

And yet the 34-year-old Hoyer made the mistakes of a quarterback 10 years younger Monday night. He sailed a throw down the seam to tight end Ryan Izzo that was picked off. He was stripped in the red zone in the third quarter. But the mistake that seemed to sap the Patriots' momentum, at a point in the game when remarkably there was momentum there to be seized, came at the end of the first half. 

Curran: A Patriots upset was there for the taking

The Patriots had things set up perfectly. They'd run 12 plays that ran about 5:30 off the game clock. They sat at the Kansas City 13-yard line knowing, with 11 seconds left and time ticking down, they had one more shot at the end zone before they'd have to kick a field goal.

They'd kept Patrick Mahomes off the field. They'd be taking the football to start the second half. And at that point, a field goal was assured. The score was at least going to be tied as teams headed to the locker rooms, 6-6.

 
Just . . . one . . . more . . . shot . . . into the end zone.

"Josh (McDaniels) said to me in the helmet, 'Let's take a shot, no bad plays,' " Hoyer explained after the game.

Then came the play that served as the Turning Point. 

The Chiefs opted to rush only four, dropping seven players into coverage, and Hoyer held onto the football for about five seconds as he scanned the field for receivers. When he rolled away from pass-rusher Frank Clark, it was going to stretch the bounds of time and space for him to get a throw off and still have enough time to kick a field goal when the throw fell incomplete. 

But that was never an issue, because Clark caught him from behind. The clock — since the Patriots had used all their timeouts up to that point — ran out. Hoyer appeared to try to call a timeout after hitting the turf, but he did so halfheartedly enough that it seemed as though even he knew what he was doing was futile.

A "shot" at seven points went from three to zero in a blink. Instead of going into halftime tied, the Patriots remained down by three.

"Just got away from me," Hoyer said.

Bill Belichick was asked if there was any miscommunication from the coaching staff to Hoyer to inform him of the timeout situation. 

"Nope," Belichick said.

As obvious a gaffe as that play was, Belichick said after the game that there wasn't much consideration given to benching Hoyer at halftime. Stidham said nothing was mentioned to him about potentially going in at that point. 

Patriots Talk Podcast: Patriots should have started Stidham vs. KC | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Hoyer, it seems, emerged as the choice for the second half for the same reasons he started in the first place.

"We thought," Belichick said, "what we did was best."

It wasn't long thereafter, though, that Hoyer was back in the red zone and making another critical quarterbacking error. After going three-and-out in their first third-quarter drive, the Patriots snapped the football on the 13th play of their next series when disaster struck.

Hoyer held the ball for about three-and-a-half seconds. He patted the ball twice and almost a third time. Eventually he was strip-sacked by defensive end Taco Charlton and lost possession. Another three points off the board.

"I cost us at least six points," he said. "Gotta do a better job there."

That was Hoyer's last play of the game. The Patriots eventually tapped Stidham to take over. He threw his first touchdown pass to cut the Chiefs lead to three points, 13-10, but later threw two more picks as the game slipped away.

 
Bean: Loss to Chiefs anything but a moral victory

Patriots mistakes weren't limited to their quarterbacks. Two interceptions were dropped by defensive backs on Chiefs scoring drives that combined for 10 points. One of Stidham's interceptions was a pick-six that glanced off Julian Edelman's hands.

But the Hoyer miscues were the early disasters that doomed them. They were opportunities lost by a 12-point underdog that needed to maximize every scoring chance they could muster against one of the league's best offenses. 

Would those mistakes have occurred had it been Stidham in the game? Impossible to say. But given Hoyer's care-taker snafus Monday, it seems hard to believe Stidham, the second-year quarterback, won't be the first choice behind center if Newton can't go in Week 5.