Hoyer makes most of second chance in second half

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Hoyer makes most of second chance in second half

FOXBORO -- When Ryan Mallett replaced Brian Hoyer, mid-possession, on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, it looked as if maybe Hoyer's night would have been over.

Instead, Mallett finished the first half at quarterback for the Patriots, but he didn't start the second. Hoyer did.

And getting thrown back into the game was the second chance Hoyer needed to get his game in order, following a lackluster, three-and-out start in the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Right now, I havent watched the film yet, but I can tell there are definitely some things I wish I would have done better," said Hoyer after the Patriots' 7-6 win over the New Orleans Saints in Thursday night's preseason opener. "You know, getting the ball batted isnt something that usually happens, so youve got to find a way to get it through. And some of the throws, youve got to get on the same page as some of the guys.

"To go out in the second half and have a 97-yard drive, that was definitely a positive, but youve got to do that more often.

Hoyer replaced the guy who replaced him -- Mallett -- and began the second half with a 14-play, 97-yard drive, which resulted in a three-yard touchdown pass to Britt Davis. Hoyer finished the drive 3-for-7 for 20 yards and a touchdown, but it was running back Shane Vereen that carried the load, accounting for 73 of the 97 yards on that drive.

The touchdown ended up being the game-winning score, and Mallett returned in the fourth quarter to close the game out.

Hoyer said that Belichick's quarterback strategy on Thursday night was just part of the everyday competition to see who will be Tom Brady's backup.

Theres always competition," said Hoyer. "I mean, Im always trying to compete with Tom Brady so, and you know, obviously Ryans a good player too, so were competing at the same time. And I think the competition always brings out the best in everyone. You never want to lag off or anything like that, so theres always competition and youre always trying to improve and I think me trying to chase Tom and trying to be as good as he is, that obviously sets a pretty high standard and I try to strive to get to his level every day.

Brady only played the first two possessions on Thursday night. He finished 4-of-7 for 30 yards. No touchdowns. No interceptions. But he was sacked once, by Saints defensive end Will Smith, in the Patriots' opening possession. Smith got bumped to the outside of the pocket by Nate Solder, but as Brady held onto the ball, Smith was able to eventually get back into the play and take Brady down hard, forcing him to lose the football at his own 40-yard line.

The Saints recovered, and ended up hitting a 46-yard field goal to take the early 3-0 lead.

Brady had one more possession, but it resulted in a punt.

It gave Hoyer and Mallett a chance to try and top one another. Hoyer finished 8-of-15 for 45 yards and a touchdown, while Mallett finished 8-of-19 with 89 yards and an interception.

Hoyer -- in his fourth year -- knows what to expect this preseason. And he knows that in order to beat Mallett for the No. 2 quarterback spot, he's going to need better starts that Thursday night. Because Belichick might not always give him a second chance.

"You know how games are played," said Hoyer. "But that first one out, you've always kind of have to get your feet underneath you, and get a few throws in, and get feeling comfortable. And I didn't feel like I did a good job of that tonight. I've got to do a better job of taking a few easy throws in the beginning, and get a good rhythm.

"There's sometimes, where instead of trying to wait on a deeper throw, you take a check-down and get the drive going," added Hoyer. "You try to get a positive play to start it off. And that can kind of get you in a rhythm. And once you're moving the ball, you can kind of keep the defense guessing. Obviously like that drive with Shane, he started to run the ball, and kind of opened things up in the passing game a little bit too. So, if you can just go out there and try to get a good rhythm going, with a check-down or a diagonal to the tight end, or something like that, I think that can help."

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”