There is little question Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer’s NFL career has been filled with challenges.
But none of the lows can compare to what the seventh-year journeyman quarterback went through during Saturday’s playoff loss to the Chiefs. Playing on his biggest stage yet, Hoyer responded with the worst game of his career.
He was responsible for all five of the Texans’ turnovers — four interceptions and one fumble — during their deflating 30-0 loss to the Chiefs at NRG Stadium. Hoyer threw three of his interceptions and lost the fumble in the first half, which drew boos from the home crowd.
“Obviously, I didn’t play the way I did all year,” said Hoyer, who joined the Texans as a free agent in the offseason. “I think up until this point I had thrown only six or seven interceptions, so to throw four in one game is not the way I play. So I’m disappointed in that.
“We talked about it all week long, try to protect the ball and obviously I didn’t do that. It’s disappointing. I have to do better than that. That’s the bottom line.”
Hoyer seemed erratic from the start, unable to hit open receivers. And then, in the second series of the game, he threw an interception to Chiefs free safety Eric Berry. On the Texans’ next series, he fumbled the ball away while dropping back for a pass late in the first quarter.
But the most costly of his turnovers came in the second quarter, when he threw an ill-advised pass to running back Alfred Blue that was intercepted by linebacker Josh Mauga near the goal line after the Texans had made it to the 3. The Texans never came as close to scoring again.
“For me, I’ve got to be smarter about that play,” said Hoyer, who ended the day completing 15 of 34 passes for 136 yards and four interceptions for a rating of 15.9. “I saw Blue flash and I have to be smarter than that, just throw it out of the back of the end zone. It was a dumb decision.
“That hasn’t been how I’ve played this year. It definitely took points off the board, and that’s on me.”
A big part of the problem seemed to be Hoyer’s inability to handle the Chiefs’ pressure and their ability to limit star receiver DeAndre Hopkins with a variety of coverages. But Hoyer said it was more about what he didn’t do than what the Chiefs were able to do against him.
“Obviously, they are a good defense, they won 10 games in a row or whatever,” Hoyer said. “But for me, it was a lack of execution.”
That lack of execution brought a great deal of acrimony from Texans fans, who began booing Hoyer after his second interception. Late in the third quarter, after the Chiefs had gone up 20-0, backup Brandon Weeden appeared to be warming up to go in, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien stuck with Hoyer.
“I felt the best thing for us in this game was to stick with him,” O’Brien said. “I had named him the starter. The game plan, and with the amount of reps Brandon had gotten during the week, basically (none), I felt the best thing to do was to stick with Hoyer.”
Apparently, there was some discussion to replace Weeden with Hoyer in the second half, according to Weeden. But Hoyer wanted to remain in the game since things were already out of hand.
“We talked about me going in there with Brian, but Brian wanted to finish the thing out. I don’t blame him,” said Weeden, who had filled in during some critical games when Hoyer was injured late in the season. “I’ve been in the same situation before, and it’s the kind of person he is.”
Hoyer saw it as a test of his manhood.
“I’m the quarterback of this team,” said Hoyer, who began the season as the Texans’ starter but was benched their second game in favor of Ryan Mallett. “It’s been a long year, and I fought my way back to play out here. I didn’t want to be coming out of that game.
“Those guys that were playing out there deserved for me to finish that game. We’ve put a lot of work in this year. As bad as it was going, I wasn’t going to come out of that game. A lot of guys have put a lot of work in, and for me to cop out just shows lack of being a man and lack of leadership.”
It seemed almost a fitting ending to an up-and-down season for Hoyer. After being replaced by Mallett, Hoyer eventually got his starting job back. O’Brien later admitted he made mistake by benching him.
Hoyer also missed playing time because of concussion issues during the season, which allowed Weeden to get playing time not long after joining the team.
“There is no one who feels lower than I do right now,” Hoyer said. “One day does not make my career, one game does not make my career. Obviously I’m disappointed, and nobody will be more critical than myself. I will take it and learn from it.”