HOUSTON (AP) In his seventh NFL season, Brian Hoyer is thrilled to get his first start in a Monday night game when the Houston Texans visit Cincinnati.
''As a kid, you remember (the Monday Night Football theme song),'' he said. ''That's the kind of thing you want to do when you're in the NFL.''
It will be a challenge for the quarterback who was benched earlier this season as he leads an inconsistent Texans team that is looking to hand the 8-0 Bengals their first loss.
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Houston is coming off its bye week after wrapping up a 3-5 first half of the season that was marred by on and off-the-field problems at quarterback.
Hoyer won the job out of camp, but was benched in the season opener after struggling early in that game. Ryan Mallett took over, but he didn't play well either and Hoyer earned the starting job back in Week 6.
The Texans have gone 2-1 since he became the starter again. And now he doesn't have to look over his shoulder anymore since Mallett was released on Oct. 27, two days after he missed the team's charter to Miami.
Despite that, Hoyer isn't changing his approach to the job. He's had too many ups and downs in his NFL career to get comfortable regardless of the situation.
''Obviously it's good but ... for me at this point in my career with what I've gone through, it's really one day at a time and one game at a time,'' he said. ''I'm going to continue to take that mentality toward it.''
Coach Bill O'Brien said Hoyer and the rest of the offense have benefited from not alternating between quarterbacks in practice since Mallett was released. Houston signed T.J. Yates when Mallett was let go, but he doesn't take snaps with the first team in practice.
''Because of the ability now to get all the reps which, he's able to get most of the reps in practice, you see much better chemistry between him and the receivers with the offensive line, with the running game, with how the plays are called, all the different things that go into that,'' O'Brien said. ''I think that that's what you see the most.''
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is third in the NFL with 870 yards receiving, agreed that Hoyer's increased workload has helped improve the rapport between him and the receivers.
''Tremendously,'' Hopkins said. ''We work a lot after practice also to help that. Hoyer does a great job of working with guys, not just the guys that are starting, but the rookies, too.''
Hoyer has played well since returning as starter, throwing eight touchdown passes with just one interception. The Texans have had some trouble protecting him though, and he's been sacked seven times in the past two games combined.
He's seen enough from the Bengals to know that the Texans will have to play better than they did before their break to compete with them.
''You don't see them ever screw up anything, really,'' Hoyer said. ''After watching the film, I've seen one play where they might have messed that one up, but everything else, they are very sound, they have a lot of great players and they are going to make you earn every yard.''
O'Brien has been impressed with how Hoyer has handled the adversity he's faced this season and wants to make sure he understands that he doesn't have to try to do too much on Monday night.
''He's got confidence,'' O'Brien said. ''He's gone in there and for the most part, he's played good football. What we would expect of him is just to continue to do that, to get us into the right play, to take care of the football, be a good leader in there, good communicator, and continue to do what he's been doing.''
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