The New England Patriots losing to the combination of Jimmy Garoppolo and Brian Hoyer on Sunday was a new low. But if any quarterback is mentally equipped to find success against New England, it's Hoyer.
The Las Vegas Raiders' backup quarterback entered Sunday's game in the second half after Garoppolo exited late in the second quarter with a back injury. On Hoyer's third play of the game, a third-and-4 from Las Vegas' 31-yard line, he uncorked a beautiful deep ball to Raiders rookie receiver Tre Tucker for a 48-yard gain -- the biggest play of the game for either side.
After the game, Hoyer admitted his near-decade of experience in New England helped set up that big gain.
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"Having been there for the last seven years, I know a lot of times on third downs, they want to take away your best players,” Hoyer told reporters after the game, via MassLive.com. "For us, that would be Davante (Adams) and Jakobi (Meyers). That was something we were keyed in on. It’s something that I’ve seen in practice over the years, a lot of times."
Hoyer spent a total of eight seasons in New England and was the team's backup QB from 2020 to 2022. That's a lot of practice time going against Bill Belichick's defenses. So he's well aware of Belichick's penchant for trying to neutralize the opponent's top players -- which means less attention on lesser-known players like Tucker.
"I was just waiting to see where they going to do that,” Hoyer said. “Because you never know when it’s going to come up. It’s usually sometimes in the red area, sometimes in the field.
"… That’s a play that we’ve kind of had in our pocket for a while and it’s just a matter of the right coverage and he executed it perfectly.”
Hoyer's bomb to Tucker -- with Adams and Meyers blanketed in coverage, leaving Tucker 1-on-1 with cornerback Jonathan Jones -- helped set up a Raiders field goal that extended Las Vegas' lead to 16-10. And while the Patriots had the ball with a chance to win late in the fourth quarter, Hoyer and the offense did just enough to stay ahead, scoring eight second-half points to secure the 21-17 victory.
"That game meant a lot to him too,” Raiders wide receiver (and fellow former Patriot) Jakobi Meyers said of Hoyer after the game. “Brian was with me over with the Patriots too so I understand what that moment meant for him. I’m just happy for him, man. I’m happy that he got that chance."
The Patriots' defense indeed succeeded in bottling up Adams, who caught just two passes for 29 yards on five targets. They also held Meyers without a catch in the second half after he racked up five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown in the first half. But Hoyer's knowledge of Belichick's system helped Las Vegas hit on a huge play and helped the Raiders walk away with the only stat that matters: a win.