FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Maybe the Texans 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 when Brissett broke free around the right side from the Houston 27, he appeared to be cornered by safety Andre Hal inside the 10. 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 .
“I’m just running until I get stopped,” Brissett said after leading the Patriots to a 27-0 victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night. “It went just how we planned it was going to work out. I just had to make one guy miss.”
As the third-string, third-round draft pick celebrated with his teammates, the stadium public address blasted out The Doors singing, “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.”
“I got a headache from all the head bopping,” Brissett said.
The Patriots were lucky that’s all that happened to the only quarterback active for the game. (Receiver Julian Edelman, who played QB at Kent State, was believed to be the emergency option if something happened to Brissett.)
Asked if he was instructed to be extra careful — to slide or go out of bounds to avoid a big hit — Brissett said, “It’s ‘Take care of yourself.’ So …”
Coach Bill Belichick said there were no special instructions for the rookie to be cautious. “Like on the touchdown run?” he said dismissively.
Belichick said Brissett made an instantaneous decision, just as all players do on every play.
“That’s why we win games, because players make good decisions,” said Belichick, who tied Curly Lambeau for fourth on the NFL’s all-time regular-season win list with his 226th career victory. “That’s what we ask them to do.”
Brissett went on to complete 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards, and ran for 48 yards on eight carries as the Patriots took advantage of three Houston turnovers. The 27-yard touchdown run was the longest for a Patriots quarterback since 1976.
“He’s a running quarterback. We expected it,” Hal said. “I was trying to hold him out of there, and he cut back on me. He’s a big guy, and he runs well.”
New England improved to 3-0 without Brady, who has one game remaining on his “Deflategate” suspension. It is not clear whether Garoppolo, who was slammed to the turf on his right arm by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso on Sunday, will be back to face Buffalo in the final game of Brady’s ban on Oct. 2.
The four-time Super Bowl champion is eligible to return for Week 5 against Cincinnati.
LeGarrette Blount ran for 105 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown, and the Texans fumbled a pair of kickoff returns to set up one- and two-play touchdown drives.
Brissett, who came on in relief of Garoppolo against Miami four days ago, 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 first of four Super Bowl titles that year, relinquishing the job only when he was injured in 2008 and again this year when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell benched him 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, had been the last Patriots rookie to start at quarterback before Brissett led the team out of the tunnel on Thursday night. Belichick declined announce a starter before listing Garoppolo on the inactive list that was released 90 minutes before kickoff .
“(Brissett) handled himself great last week, this week, all week, every day,” Belichick said. “He’s done nothing but work had ever since he’s been here.”