Cam Newton’s positive Coronanvirus test on late Friday night forced the New England Patriots to rearrange their offense and rely on their backup quarterbacks to get the job done during a challenging Week 4 road game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The team entered the contest with Brian Hoyer as the starter and Jarrett Stidham serving as his backup, but that hierarchy lasted only two-and-a-half quarters.
Hoyer had some positive moments, and drove the Patriots offense in scoring range three times while the contest was still a defensively dominated one. The veteran also had the two worst plays of the night, however, when he was sacked in the red zone on two separate occasions: the first resulted in the clock hitting zero at the end of the first half, the second in a lost fumble.
After that fumble, the Patriots’ coaching staff had seen enough and decided to pull the 34-year-old in favor of Stidham. Unsurprisingly, Hoyer was not happy with his performance during his first ever game as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
“It’s disappointing. You never want to get taken out of the game, but coach made a decision I understand. Two bad decisions down in the red area really cost us points. It’s frustrating, it’s disappointing. I have to do a better job,” he said. “I cost us at least six points. Gotta do a better job there, and we knew it was going to be a tough game that was going to go for 60 minutes.”
On the day, Hoyer completed 15 of his 24 passing attempts for 130 yards. He also took the two costly sacks and threw an interception. And yet, thanks to some impressive play by the Patriots’ defense, the team was still in the game when Jarrett Sitdham was inserted into the lineup instead of him: Stidham took over with the Patriots down 13-3 in the late third period.
The deficit was not insurmountable, but the coaching staff apparently had more confidence in Stidham than in Hoyer to bring the team back.
“There in the third quarter, after one of the drives, Josh just came over and said, ‘Hey, you’re in,’” recalled Stidham. “That was pretty much it.”
Head coach Bill Belichick, always the pragmatic decision maker, explained his team’s thought process by using some familiar phrases.
“We did what we thought was best, so that’s what we did. ... We tried to find ways to keep playing well.”
Initially after the quarterback change, the Patriots did just that: Stidham led the offense on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a scoring pass to wide receiver N’Keal Harry from four yards out. Down only a field goal at that point, the former fourth-round draft pick had set himself up for a possible fourth quarter comeback against one of the best teams in football. However, that hope did not last long.
Stidham’s next two series both ended with interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. While the first was not completely his fault — Julian Edelman let the ball go through his hands before the pick — the bottom line is still that he failed to kickstart a somewhat struggling New England offense.
“Obviously, I’m really excited to get the opportunity just to get in there and play football with the guys. I just wanted to come in and move the chains, trying to give us a shot to just score some points,” Stidham said during his own postgame video conference call. “It’s frustrating that we couldn’t pull out the win, but we can definitely learn and get better.
“It’s nice to get out there and to play, and to get those reps, but it’s obviously very frustrating to not come away with a win, throwing the two interceptions and so forth. I think I’ll be able to take a deeper look once I am able to watch the film. I definitely think there’s some better throws I could have made out there on the field. I’m anxious to watch the film and see what I can do better.”
With Newton’s timeline unclear despite him being asymptomatic as of Sunday, the Patriots will have to hope that both Stidham and Hoyer learn from their mistakes to possibly give the team a better shot against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.