FOXBOROUGH, MASS. >> Jacoby Brissett inherited a 21-point lead — and good field position — when he made his NFL debut.
If he makes his first career start against the Houston Texans on Thursday night, things will be a bit more difficult.
The New England Patriots' third-stringer was forced into action on Sunday when Jimmy Garoppolo injured his throwing shoulder in the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins.
With starter Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, Brissett would be the No. 1 QB against Houston if Garoppolo can't return from his right shoulder injury in time.
"He's a smart young kid," receiver Danny Amendola said on Monday, a day after Brissett came on in relief and helped the Patriots seal a 31-24 victory over the Dolphins.
"I know he hasn't been in the NFL for a long time, but he seems to grasp what we are trying to do."
A 23-year-old rookie who was a third-round pick in this year's draft, Brissett completed 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards against the Dolphins.
The Patriots relied heavily on the run late in the game, though they were also trying to nurse a lead that grew to 24-0 before Brissett even completed his first NFL pass.
"It wasn't an easy situation, but he did a good job with it," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on Monday.
Brissett's promotion is certainly short-lived: Either Garoppolo gets better quickly and finishes off Brady's suspension as the starter, or Brissett handles things until Week 5, when Brady is eligible to return.
Neither Belichick nor offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would comment on their plans.
But Brissett knows he needs to be ready.
"The quarterback — he's going to prepare for the game the same way, regardless of whether he's going to start the game or not," Belichick said. "You could take a defensive back and say ... 'We're only going to use you in this situation.' But you can't do that with a quarterback."
Although Belichick has proclaimed that Brady will get the job back when he returns, Garoppolo was expected to use the four-game suspension as a tryout.
At 39, Brady could retire or wear down without notice, so having an heir in waiting could help the Patriots continue of the most successful dynasties in NFL history.
Garoppolo was impressive during his brief stint: He beat Arizona in the opener and completed 18 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns in 25 minutes against Miami.
But he lasted fewer than six quarters before Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso slammed him to the turf and knocked him out of the game in Week 2.
Brissett took over at the Miami 21 and handed the ball off twice before throwing an incompletion; the Patriots kicked a field goal to make it 24-0.
He presided over a three-and-out just before the half, but led New England to a touchdown on its first possession of the second, completing all four pass attempts on the drive, for 73 yards.
"Jacoby's a rookie that doesn't have any game experience, and yet when he went into the game ... he had good poise and composure and managed the situation well initially," McDaniels said.
"And then (we) had an opportunity to talk at halftime about some things that we wanted to do in the second half and I thought he took advantage of his opportunities.
"Like every quarterback who's a young player, you're going to learn things as you play and perform in regular-season games that you've never had an opportunity to experience. (I'm) hoping that — not only Jacoby, but a lot of our young players that played for the first time or the second time have an opportunity to really grow."