Since the Texans became an NFL franchise in 2002 they have matched up with the Patriots 11 times and their record in those games is 1-10, including Sunday’s 27-20 Pats victory.
New England’s offense seemed a little rusty to start or maybe it was just them getting a feel for things. After all there are a lot of new pieces on that offense.
The defense helped spark the Patriot offense early, diving on a Desahun Watson fumble to give Tom Brady and company great field position. Soon after we saw a classic Brady to Gronkowski back shoulder pass for a touchdown to put New England up 7-0 just like that.
Things got a little concerning at the end of the first quarter when a tipped Brady pass was intercepted by the honey badger himself, Tyrann Mathieu, to now give Houston great field position.
Fortunately, the Patriot defense stood tall as they did for most of the day and held the Texans to just three points.
For those of you who saw that I picked Houston for this game you probably think I’m nuts for making such a forecast but c’mon I thought we were going to see the Deshaun Watson and Texans of last year. It’s only Watson’s first game back from a bad ACL tear so I’ll cut him some slack but I’ve got high hopes for this kid.
Moving on with the game.
We saw Brady come back strong after his interception in the second quarter on a great drive ending with a James White touchdown reception.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge James White fan (and was way before his Super Bowl LI heroics). He’s such a smart back and always in sync with Brady, he’s going to have a huge season.
The Pats are famous for scoring right before halftime and they did that once again on Sunday as Brady found Phillip Dorsett in the back of the end-zone to put NE up 21-6 going into the locker room.
Speaking of Dorsett I’ve had high hopes for him since training camp and it’s great to see him come through with a big game (team leading 7 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown). If he continues to do that consistently then this wide receiver group will be just fine.
This game appeared that it was going to be a blowout but the Pats didn’t punch in a second half touchdown so Houston stayed in the game. With a few defensive miscues it became a ballgame again but the Texans just couldn’t fully capitalize as New England closed it out for the 27-20 win. Although it was a one score game it never really felt like the Pats were going to lose this game.
Here’s some highs and lows from the game:
- The Patriots front seven was great. They brought pressure for most of the game and sacked Watson three times. It was a pleasant surprise to see a solid pass rush after a plethora of defensive conundrums last year.
- Phillip Dorsett. Like I mentioned before, I had high hopes for Dorsett and I think he can do this on a week to week basis and solve New England’s WR woes.
- Trent Brown. We weren’t quite sure what we were going to see from the big man at left tackle but he had a GREAT game, keeping the dangerous Houston pass rush at bay and giving Tom the pocket time to find his targets.
- Jonathan Jones. One of the most forgotten/underrated players on the Patriots. I’ve always liked Jones and he excels at being a slot corner as seen yesterday. He went on IR last year and I think people kind of just forgot how important he is. If healthy last year he really could’ve made a difference in that Super Bowl…oh and maybe a guy named Butler could’ve helped too. Anyways, Jones played great yesterday, maybe even perfect, as he was targeted four times and didn’t let up one catch. On special teams he helped seal the win for the Pats as he pinned a Ryan Allen punt down at the one yard line. He was a true Patriot yesterday.
- Late defensive mistakes. I thought Stephon Gilmore had a great game against the Texans, keeping Deandre Hopkins from going off. However, he had a few bad holding calls on him late in the game that let Houston creep back in a bit. I’m letting it slide this time though because you kind of have to be “grabby” against Hopkins. Duron Harmon also had a dumb hit on a defenseless receiver at the end of the game, that can’t happen.
- Carelessness with the ball. Gronk hasn’t fumbled since 2012 and that streak ended yesterday. After a big catch in the open field he lost the ball and gave Houston good field position. Rex Burkhead also had one pop out of his grasp early on but luckily it was recovered by a teammate. Brady’s interception wasn’t careless since it was tipped by a Houston defensive lineman, not much you can do there.
- Punt returner issues. This has been a glaring issue for the Pats for a few years now. Other than guys named Edelman or Amendola it seems the Patriots just can’t find someone to safely catch a punt consistently. A few years back it was Chris Harper muffing a punt to blow a game in Denver and Cyrus Jones couldn’t get the hang of it either (putting it lightly). Yesterday Riley McCarron (cut after the preseason but bumped up from the practice squad) had one go off his face and into the hands of the Texans. Muffing a punt or kickoff is one of football’s biggest “no-no’s”. The other team is GIVING you the ball and to hand it right back is absolutely unacceptable.
- Jeremy Hill injury. This isn’t really something the Patriots did wrong but it was really tough to see Hill get injured badly after he had a great start. We’re not sure of the exact injury but before he went down he was the Pats leading rusher with 25 yards on four carries and he even blocked a punt on special teams!