With Tom Brady amid a suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo too injured to play Thursday, the Patriots made the risky decision of entering their game against Houston with third-string rookie Jacoby Brissett and wide receiver Julian Edelman as their only options at quarterback. It ended up working out, as the Pats shellacked the Texans, 27-0, and didn’t have to turn to Edelman. Brissett had an uneventful night through the air in his first NFL start, going 11 of 19 for 103 yards, but he rushed for 48 yards on eight attempts and added a 27-yard score.
Before the game, team president Jonathan Kraft explained why the Patriots didn’t sign a free agent signal-caller earlier in the week, telling 98.5 The Sports Hub (via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com), “If you were to sign another quarterback, you’d have to cut a player that’s on your 53-man roster that you like. Odds are he’s going to have to clear waivers, and odds are if he’s leaving our organization, he very well might not. And we like the 53 men on this team, the 46 that are dressed tonight, and we understand the things that might happen. It’s football, and I think everyone feels like this gives our team the best chance of winning the football game.”
The Pats worked out free agents T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree on Tuesday, but they opted against signing either. Now, with extra time to prepare for its Week 4 game against Buffalo, New England could get Garoppolo back from a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder. Brady will then come off the suspended list in Week 5.
More on the NFL’s first 3-0 team of 2016:
- Head coach Bill Belichick has gotten the lion’s share of the credit for Brady-less New England’s undefeated start, but Ryan Hannable of WEEI posits that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might deserve just as much praise. McDaniels has had two QBs, Garoppolo and Brissett, make their first career starts this year, and he had to get the latter ready on a short week. Nevertheless, both Garoppolo and Brissett have held their own this year. “He ultimately gets everyone ready to play. It’s fun,” receiver Danny Amendola said of McDaniels, who’s seemingly on the fast track to another head coaching job, as Hannable writes. McDaniels’ first try, in which he went 11-19 in Denver from 2009-10, failed, but the 40-year-old has further established himself as one of the league’s top assistants since.
- The Patriots’ defense might be even more terrifying for the rest of the league than Brady’s forthcoming return, argues Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today. The unit embarrassed the Brock Osweiler-led Texans, holding him to 196 yards and an interception on 24 of 41 passing. Additionally, running back Lamar Miller totaled a subpar 3.8 yards per carry on 21 attempts, while elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins recorded only four catches for 56 yards. “We were shocked. We couldn’t get anything going,” said Texans tight end Ryan Griffin.
- Belichick is among the coaches who have exploited the league’s new touchback rule this year, writes Reyes. Moving the ball from the 20 to the 25 on touchbacks was done to limit kick returns, but the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski intentionally booted two kicks short of the end zone. The Texans fumbled on both returns, and New England recovered deep in Houston territory on each occasion. “Our kickoff guys are doing a great job. It would be dumb just to kick it out of the end zone every time right now,” stated Gostkowski. Said Belichick, “It seemed like (the Texans) had to go 90 yards every time they had the ball. Our kickoff team, once again, came up big with field position; two turnovers. That’s a very aggressive unit.”