Ready or not, Brian Hoyer unable to deliver in Colts’ loss

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 10: Brian Hoyer #2 of the Indianapolis Colts directs his team against the Miami Dolphins in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Jacoby Brissett’s sprained left knee kept him out of Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins, and also undermined the preparation of Brian Hoyer.

Tough, but true.

Hoyer made his first start since week 6 of the 2017 season when he was with the San Francisco 49ers, and it turned into his 10th straight loss as a starter. His stat line was as unsightly as the 16-12 loss to Miami: 18-of-39, 204 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions, a 38.8 passer rating.

Normally, the starting quarterback takes virtually all of the practice reps in the week leading up to a game. In this instance, that wasn’t the case.

Brissett sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in last Sunday’s loss at Pittsburgh. The Colts were encouraged by his ability to practice Wednesday and again Thursday.

“I thought there might be a chance,’’ Frank Reich said of Brissett starting against Miami.

Friday, though, dampened those hopes.

“When I really watched the tape, at the end of the day I was hoping he could get to 90-95 percent,’’ Reich said. “I felt like he was at like 80 percent and kind of stuck there.

“Just wasn’t the right move (to start him). Put a lot of thought into that. We’ve got to protect the players first of all. Could he play effectively at 80 percent? I know he could play because he’s one of the toughest guys I know. He would have played if we would have let him. Just didn’t think that was the best thing for him or for the thing.’’

The late decision to keep Brissett down and insert Hoyer, though, meant Hoyer didn’t take the normal reps for a starting QB.

“This is the role of a backup,’’ Reich said. “Was it ideal? No. Because Jacoby progressed fairly good early in the week, we felt like there was a chance he was going to play. That did hinder how many reps Brian got, especially on Thursday because Jacoby came out and practiced early, felt good and looked good.

“But it was from the pocket, not really testing it. That does affect how many reps Brian got, but that’s your job as a backup quarterback.’’

“Whether it’s difficult, whether it’s not, that’s just the way it goes,’’ Hoyer said. “You try to go and do the best you can with it.’’

Hoyer was informed he was the starting QB Saturday morning, and he immediately began meeting with Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni. They tailored the game plan to better suit Hoyer.

“I think you just try and go over as much as you can,’’ Hoyer said. “Like I said, there’s a lot of meetings with Frank and Nick and going over plays that we like. We added some, took some out and things like that.

“When you find out on Saturday, you’re trying to use that last 24 hours – whatever it might be – to try to zero in on what you want it to be.’’

It clearly wasn’t enough.

The offense finished with 300 total yards, but had only 108 yards on 28 plays in the first half.

Hoyer’s first interception was a result of safety Steven Parker wrestling the football away from tight end Eric Ebron in the end zone on the Colts’ first possession of the game. The other two were bad throws.

And with the game on the line – first-and-10 at the Miami 16, 1 minute remaining, Dolphins protecting a 4-point lead – Hoyer was unable to deliver.

Incomplete to Ebron. Incomplete to Chester Rogers in the end zone. Incomplete to Ebron, who was double-covered in the end zone. An 8-yard completion to Ebron. Not once did the Colts use Marlon Mack.

“When they’re playing man, you want to take advantage of the opportunities and take a shot,’’ Hoyer said. “So looking back, when I realize it’s fourth down, you think back maybe we couldn’t have taken a shorter gain (earlier).

“But those three opportunities before that I felt like we had legit chances to score.’’

Reich said “everything was in play’’ on the final four plays.

“We had plenty of time, had timeouts to go,’’ he said. “All of those passes that we threw had underneath options, but you read it out. We weren’t rushing for time.’’

 About Ebron’s non-TD?

Ebron was surprised when his touchdown catch turned into an interception by Parker.

“I thought I maintained possession, thought I took more than enough steps to show that I possessed the ball,’’ he said. “As I got to the ground, he started to rip at it. At that point, the way my body was, I couldn’t control it.’’

Busy day for Leonard

Linebacker Darius Leonard amassed a fat stat line: 13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, two passes defensed, two tackles for loss.

But it wasn’t enough.

“We didn’t do enough to get a victory,’’ he said. “They scored, what, 16 points? That’s still not enough.’’

Since 2012, the Colts had been 36-4 in games the defense allowed 17 points or fewer.

This and that

Defensive end Justin Houston had one of the Colts’ 3 sacks and now has had at least 1 in five straight games. That’s the second-longest streak of his career. He had a pair of six-game streaks in 2014. . . . Mack finished with 74 yards on 19 carries. . . . Running back Jordan Wilkins was forced from the game with an ankle injury.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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