FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Maybe Texans safety Andre Hal thought Jacoby Brissett would run out of bounds at the 5 in the first quarter of his first NFL start.
After all, with Tom Brady suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo injured, the Patriots didn’t have any other quarterbacks on the roster to call upon if the 23-year-old rookie got hurt.
But Brissett, who broke free around the right side on a first-and-15 from the Houston 27, went untouched to the 5 before Hal appeared to have him cornered. Heading for the sideline, Brissett stutter-stepped and let the defender cut in front of him, then slipped through his grasp before diving for the end zone .
As his teammates rushed to celebrate with him, the stadium public address blasted out The Doors: “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.”
Brissett went on to complete 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards, and ran for 48 yards on eight carries for the Patriots on Thursday night as they took advantage of three Houston turnovers to beat the Texans 27-0. The 27-yard touchdown run was the longest for a Patriots quarterback since 1976.
New England improved to 3-0 without Brady, who has one game remaining on his “Deflategate” suspension.
It was quite an introduction for Brissett, who came on in relief of Garoppolo against Miami on Sunday and four days later became the first rookie quarterback to start for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe in 1993 — and the first black player to start at QB in franchise history .
It was 15 years minus one day after Bledsoe was knocked out of the game on a hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.
Brady led the Patriots to the Super Bowl title that year — and three more — relinquishing the job only in 2008, when he was injured, and again this year when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell benched him four games for his role in a scheme to use improperly inflated footballs in the 2015 AFC title game.
Bledsoe, who had been the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft, was the last rookie to start a game at quarterback for the Patriots before Brissett took the field on Thursday night, leading the team out of the tunnel before the game and then to a victory during it.
Brissett made his NFL debut in relief of Garoppolo, who was slammed to the turf by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso on Sunday, a 31-24 Patriots victory. Brissett completed 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards against Miami but it wasn’t clear he would get the start until Garoppolo was on the inactive list when it was released 90 minutes before kickoff.
Coach Bill Belichick decided not to bring in a free agent quarterback to fill out the depth chart , leaving only receiver Julian Edelman, who played QB at Kent State, if something happened to Brissett.