How Tom Brady’s backups performed in the Patriots’ first preseason game

Poised play from Brian Hoyer in the 2nd half helped the Patriots past the Redskins.

Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer celebrates a touchdown by running back Jeremy Hill during the second half Thursday.
Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer celebrates a touchdown by running back Jeremy Hill during the second half Thursday. –Charles Krupa / AP Photo

Thursday’s first half left Patriots head coach Bill Belichick uninspired, to say the least, but the second half was more to his liking.

The Patriots, who trailed by 14 after a sluggish opening 30 minutes, rallied to beat the Redskins, 26-17, in both teams’ preseason opener. Much of the first-half woes and the second-half improvement stemmed from inefficient-turned-reliable quarterback play.

Longtime reserve Brian Hoyer ended the game 16-for-23 with 144 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, and an 86.1 passer rating. After struggling in the first half, he settled into a rhythm late in the game and fueled the comeback.

“It was too slow to start,” Hoyer told reporters. “We have to be better. It was more just basic execution than anything else.”

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They were much better late in the game. With the Patriots down 17-3 to start the third quarter, Hoyer orchestrated two impressive drives to shift the momentum. The first was a mammoth 19-play, 84-yard marathon that ended with a 1-yard score from Jeremy Hill.

Hoyer found Cordarrelle Patterson for a 19-yard reception, and he also hit Devin Lucien for a 6-yard connection.

On the next drive, it was more of the same for the Patriots, who looked like an entirely different team after halftime. This drive spanned 16 plays and 90 yards, lasting over 8 minutes and culminating with a Ralph Webb rushing touchdown and a 2-point conversion off a pass from Hoyer.

The throw was low, but Webb snared it and trounced into the end zone to give the Patriots an 18-17 edge with 9:05 left in the fourth quarter. Hoyer’s play in both halves was a microcosm of the Patriots as a whole, and his second-half resurgence was instrumental in the win.

“There’s not going to be a magic play or a magic formation that we’re going to line up in,” Hoyer said. “We’ve just got to go out and execute.”

He then gave way to rookie Danny Etling, the Patriots’ seventh-round pick who made his preseason debut Thursday. Etling, who threw 27 TD passes to just seven interceptions at LSU, didn’t get many reps. He completed his first pass, an 18-yard ball to Lucien, then went 1-for-4 after that, for a total of 21 yards, and lost a fumble.

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It wasn’t a perfect effort from the QBs, but the Patriots don’t need them to be perfect. After all, they still have Tom Brady.

“It was good to see the players respond,” Belichick said, “and it was good to see them play with I would say more urgency, better execution, and just an overall higher effort and performance level in the second half.”