The optimism that was seeping back into Patriots nation was whisked away on Sunday afternoon in Houston as the Patriots fell into an early hole and weren’t able to crawl out. They once again fell short as Cam Newton’s Hail Mary heave was caught, but too short, too late to tie the game, and too late to salvage any slim hopes for a postseason berth.
Newton’s pass to Ryan Izzo was just a perfect microcosm to the season.
The loss was particularly brutal as Houston’s only wins prior to today were against Jacksonville. And then they probably lost Rex Burkhead for the season as they fear he tore his ACL after getting hit low when taking a pitch on a 3rd and 1 in the 3rd quarter.
After looking like they were getting their defense back to something close to what they envisioned when they beat Baltimore, they were sliced and diced by Deshaun Watson who looked like he was playing 7-on-7 out there for much of Sunday’s game.
The Patriots didn’t play with anything resembling the confidence that they did a week ago on defense. They resisted bringing extra pressure on Watson, and afraid of his scrambling ability, dropped often into zone coverage. Whenever they did, Watson ate them alive, but even in man coverage, the Texans’ fleet receivers were all winning the 1-on-1 battles.
Houston has excellent speed outside with Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, and Randall Cobb with three tight ends (Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, and Pharaoh Brown) who can all catch the ball, and they consistently ate up whatever coverage the Patriots were throwing at them. What a problem it must be to have three tight ends that can catch the ball. It was uncomfortable to watch the defense play so poorly.
And it was a case of wasting a good opportunity to build some momentum. After getting an early stop on Houston, the Patriots took their first possession and did exactly what we thought they’d do and ran the ball right down Houston’s throat. Damien Harris led the way with five carries for 25 yards including a nine-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 for the Patriots.
But that was Harris’ watershed moment. Harris would only get six carries the rest of the game (three more in the first half, and three in the second), as the coaching staff unfathomably basically abandoned the running game against the worst rush defense in the NFL. The Patriots would only rush for 86 yards (mostly be design) after rushing for double that against the Ravens.
Watson looked like he was made of kryptonite as the Patriots couldn’t lay a hand on him, and he was aided by two missed holding calls. On his touchdown run, Carl Davis had his jersey clearly pulled backward and the referees ignored clear holding on his touchdown pass right before the half. The Patriots, by comparison, were flagged a season-high seven times. However, Watson’s magic on full display all game long, and one never got the feeling that the Patriots could stop the Texans’ offense. Houston had seven plays of 20 yards or more.
Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and completed 26 of 40 passes with a TD. Overall, he had another good outing, but he missed on several makable throws where his mechanics were involved. When he steps into his throws, he very accurate and his throws allow his receivers the opportunity to make yards after the catch.
His third-quarter 41-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd was a beauty as he arced a throw right on the money as Byrd hauled it in over his shoulder in a basket catch. Byrd had a career game with six catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Jakobi Meyers had just three receptions for 38 yards on the day.
So, with the playoff talk turned to 2021, the Patriots lost another great opportunity to advance and it is just another frustrating loss in a frustrating season.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandin Cooks Cam Newton Deshaun Watson Houston Texans James White New England Patriots NFL Stephon Gilmore Will Fuller