It was another slow start for New England on Sunday, but the second half once again obviously proved to be a big one for the Patriots during their 34-31 win.

Tom Brady came up big for the Patriots, finishing the second half 18-of-23 for 263 yards and a touchdown during a 27-point finish against a Texans team that likely went into the locker room feeling pretty good about their chances after being up 17-7 after two quarters of play.


Tom Brady’s third quarter performances over the last three games have been impressive.
(USA TODAY Images)

Instead, Brady did what he’s done so well over the past three weeks and kicked it into gear in the third quarter.   Statistically looking at the numbers, Brady has played better than he has all season in the 3rd Quarter over that span, finishing 7-of-7 (100%) for 57-yards and a touchdown in Carolina, 12-of-14 (86%) for 163-yards and two touchdowns last week against Denver, and 10-of-11 (91%) for 176-yards and a touchdown yesterday in Houston.

“Yeah, I mean we figured it out a little bit last week too,” Brady said after the game when asked about his second half performance.   “But it was good to get a win on the road.  We talked about that because we’ve lost the last three on the road.  Our communication needs to be better, in and out of the huddle.  Our execution on critical third downs is important.  Really making some clutch plays like we did on defense, that last stop they made, really saved the game for us.”

They’ve also been making big plays over the past couple of weeks, with Sunday being the second straight week they’ve gotten a play of over 40 yards, with Rob Gronkowski hauling in a 50-yard pass on New England’s opening drive to start the second half.  Two plays later James Develin pounded the football in from one-yard out, and just like that the Patriots were back in the game down just three points at 17-14.

On the next drive he was 5-of-6 for 70-yards, which ended with a 9-yard scoring strike to Shane Vereen to put them ahead at 21-17, and was just as efficient on his next drive after completing 4-of-5 for 54-yards to set up a 7-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount following a field goal by Houston.

Brady credited the coaching staff for the adjustments made at half time which he felt helped them get things going in the second half.

“I think our coaches do a great job of getting to the adjustments that we need to make because you go through the first half and you don’t produce much at all, and then the coaches come in at half time and they say, ‘OK, well these are the things that we’re going to have to do to move the ball,” said Brady.  We started with a great drive there to start the third quarter and then scored again, and then scored again, and then scored again, and it was just, it was really a great way for us to play offense.”

Finishing strong has certainly been a great attribute for this football team, but it would be nice if they could start getting things going a little earlier.  They’ve managed just ten points over the past three games in the first half, which is something that down the road will likely come back to bite them.

“Whatever we’re doing’s not good enough and we can’t keep getting behind because you’ve got to play too well in the second half to overcome (it),” said Brady when asked about their first half woes.  ” Turnovers…those never help.  We did a good job with penalties today, I mean we didn’t get sacked.  One of the best fronts in football and to not get sacked, they can really rush the quarterback.  We had some good match-ups.  We made a lot of plays, we  probably had more opportunities to make plays.”

“Those guys played really hard.  It’s a good defense.  They’re the number one rated pass defense in the league.  Now we have to play our best.”

TEXANS ANTONIO SMITH THOUGHT ACCUSES PATRIOTS OF SPYING:

Just when you think Spygate is gone, there’s always some player who feels the need to believe the Patriots had a camera somewhere in their facility prior to their match-up.

The Texans Antonio Smith made some questionable comments following their loss to the Patriots on Sunday, and essentially suggested that it was suspicious how New England seemed to be ready for the wrinkles they had put in heading into Sunday’s game.

“Either teams are spying on us or scouting us,” Smith told reporters in the locker room after the game.

According to Smith he found it strange that the Patriots seemed ready for some of the things the Texans had just put in during their preparations last week, which wouldn’t have been on film to prepare for.

“I’m very suspicious,” Smith said. “I just think it will be a big coincidence if that just happened by chance. I don’t know for sure, but I just know it was something that we practiced this week.”

Apparently he didn’t notice that his team jumped out to a 17-7 lead on Sunday against the Patriots, before New England went in at halftime and obviously made adjustments.  They came out in the second half and scored 27 points, which ultimately ended up being the difference in the game.

So while it seems convenient to make the assumption the Patriots were spying on them, the likelihood is that is New England adjusted based on what unfolded in front of them, not from anything that was seen on film.  This is a team notorious for changing everything on a week-to-week basis and even quarter-to-quarter depending on the situation, which as we know is one of the key reasons why some free agents don’t end up working out in this system.

But either way, Smith seems to be puzzled how New England could have adjusted so quickly.

“You can tell they changed their scheme in the second half,” said Smith.  “It just seems miraculous to me how they changed some things on offense that keyed on what we put in this week to stop what they were doing. They did things they never did all year before. It was a specific thing that was important to what we were going to do today, as to how we were going to call the defense. We’d not ever did it before, and they never changed like that before. It just let me know that something wasn’t right.”

“When you watch film of the team do something a certain way all the time no matter what team they play, it’s been 12 games played and they always did it,” said Smith.  “Then all of a sudden it’s changed? It was pretty clever and pretty suspicious.”

Clever indeed.  But that tends to happen with a future Hall of Fame coach and quarterback who have been together long enough to know how to counter what teams are doing.  Unfortunately for Smith he simply happened to be on the losing end of things.

Ten straight losses is a nasty trend that generally has something to do with lack of talent or lack of coaching, and the lack of a winning attitude.   After hearing Smith’s ridiculous comments, the reasons behind the Texans’ woes now seem to make a little more sense.

RIDLEY INACTIVE SUNDAY, AND SEEMS TO BE SERVING A PENANCE:

Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was inactive during Sunday’s game in Houston but was present on the sidelines as a spectator.  Obviously last week’s fumble against Denver likely triggered his benching, and it was interesting to note that each time he was seen he had a football in his hand, which according to other reports is what he’s been doing each time he’s been seen recently.  It’s very reminiscent of the movie “The Program”, which after fumbling in practice resulted in their character carrying around a football everywhere he went.

GOSTKOWSKI WITH A HUGE PERFORMANCE ON SUNDAY:

One thing that can’t be overlooked was the performance of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who came up with some huge kicks during Sunday’s game that were key in their win over the Texans.  After having his consecutive field goal streak of 21 straight snapped in the second quarter on a 55-yard attempt that missed wide right, he came out in drilled two from 53-yards in the fourth quarter that ultimately won the game.

“We have confidence in Steve, we have confidence in that whole unit,” said Belichick after the game.  “We tried one in the first half from 50, whatever it was, 57, 58.  That was probably a bad decision on my part, we would have been better off punting that ball.  Just on the distance, it was a tough kick.   But he hit it good, he gave it a shot, but we have confidence when we send him out there and he’s come through, really all year for us.”

Belichick was asked about if he thought about going for it on 4th-and-2 with just over three minutes to go in the game before Gostkowksi hit his second straight 53-yard field goal, but he couldn’t pass up a potential scoring opportunity.

“Yeah, I mean, those points gave us the lead,” said Belichick.   “I don’t think you want to pass up an opportunity to take a lead in a tie game like that and Steve made it look like a good decision.”

Coincidentally, had Gostkowksi made that kick for 55-yards it would have been a career high for the veteran kicker, and it’s also the distance of a school record he set during his high school days at Madison Central High School in Madison, Mississippi after hitting a 55-yarder there as well.

Unfortunately on this afternoon it wasn’t meant to be, but the final two he hit were big ones that ended up being the difference, and he now has a new streak to build on.

EDELMAN HITS THE MARK:

Julian Edelman is already having a career season and Sunday’s second straight nine-catch performance gave him 70 receptions on the season, and also triggered a $250,000 performance incentive thanks to the one-year deal he signed before this season.  He’s currently 33 ahead of Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, who are next in receptions with 37, and also two ahead of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, who has 68 on the year.

“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity, getting open, trying to catch the ball when they call my number,” Edelman told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “That’s how it goes. I prepare every week the same, so I just go out there and work hard, try to take things from the classroom to the practice field, execute it and make it a game reality.”

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Patriots rally in 2nd half to beat the Texans – Shalise Manza Young – Young has her game story from Sunday’s win down in Houston where the Texans put up quite a fight.

In a strange way, Antonio Smith’s spying implication is a compliment to Patriots – Chad Finn – Finn has his thoughts on Smith’s implications that there’s no way New England could have known what was coming on Sunday.

5 takeaways from the Patriots-Texans game – Zuri Berry – Berry has five takeaways from the game, including the fact that once again Danny Amendola was outplayed by Julian Edelman.

Stephen Gostkowski loses streak, but hits game-winner – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an article on Gostkowski who saw his field goal streak of 21 straight come to an end, missing on a 55-yard field goal in the second quarter.

With Stevan Ridley benched, Patriots turn to James Develin – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer writes that after Ridley was inactive for Sunday’s game, it gave James Develin an opportunity to play and he didn’t disappoint.

BOSTON HERALD:

Stephen Gostkowski twice dials in from 53 out – Jeremy Rakes – Rakes has an article on Gostkowski, who he writes was perfect when they needed him yesterday.

Patriots Notebook: James Develin busts through – Jeff Howe – Howe has an article on Develin who told him his touchdown run “felt like a lifetime in about 3 seconds”.

Play of the game: Pressure points – Jeremy Rakes –  The Boton Herald looks at the key points from Sunday’s game, including the signature moment which came on a 4th-and-12 with 2:06 to play when the defense came after Case Keenum and collapsed the pocket.

Tom Brady, offense dominant late – Karen Guregian – Guregian writes that after seeing the offense struggle early on, we’ve learned not to worry.

Defense can’t keep relying on Tom Brady bailouts – Ron Borges – Borges has his take on yesterday’s game and writes, “Tom Brady is like a parish priest. He absolves the sins of others. Yet even the parish priest knows there are limits to his authority.”

CSNNE: 

Curran’s Patriots – Texans preview review - Tom Curran - Curran looks back at his preview and talks about what he was right about, and what he was wrong about in this week’s edition.

WEEI:

What we learned: In the end, all wins are created equal – Christopher Price – Price writes that after their 34-31 tractor pull of a win over the Texans, the Patriots remain entrenched in that No. 2 spot in the AFC playoff picture.

MASSLIVE:

Bill Belichick says Stevan Ridley did not dress Sunday because … – Nick Underhill – Underhill has comments from Belichick on why Ridley was inactive Sunday.

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

FARINELLA: Patriots still half bad, and that’s not good - Mark Farinella – Farinella writes that the Patriots were still bad during the first half of Sunday’s win, and that remains a problem.

SOUTHCOASTTODAY.COM:

Five things we Learned from Sunday’s Game - Jonathan Comey – Comey writes that watching Sunday’s game was like watching an old 1980′s movie: predictable and fun.