This one had U-G-L-Y written all over it, but in the end, an ugly win is a hundred times more preferable than an even uglier loss. The Patriots trailed all game to the lowly Houston Texans and deserve some credit for coming back from a 22-9 deficit to take their first lead of the game, and winning with 15 seconds left 25-22.
There was a great deal of concern entering the game because four of the Patriots starting five offensive linemen were out this week, two from injury and two who were on the reserve COVID list. But the offensive line was hardly an issue today in Houston. After being pummeled around like a heavy bag in a boxing gym for four weeks, QB Mac Jones was sacked only once and hit just four times. The patchwork OL performed well enough and the team was able to rush for 126 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
The issue today was the secondary, a week after holding Tom Brady and the high-powered Bucs out of the end zone, they were carved up by rookie Davis Mills who looked like…Tom Brady, throwing for 312 yards completing 21-29 passes for a QB rating of 141.7. Chris Moore was activated off the Bucs practice squad and chewed up the Patriots like an established veteran, catching 5 passes for 109 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown on five targets.
Trading Stephon Gilmore had zero to do with that, as he wouldn’t have played anyway. But Jalen Mills was out this week and his replacement Joejuan Williams was treated rudely giving up a far too easy touchdown on a flea-flicker to Chris Conley.
Other observations from the game include:
- Ball security remains a huge issue – Damien Harris, who left the game twice with a chest and rib injury, lost his second fumble inside the 10-yard line in five games. Today it was close and it seemed like he may have broken the plane of the end zone, but it goes without saying that your RBs can’t lose four fumbles in five games…unacceptable.
- Although Mac Jones’ numbers were pedestrian, 23-30, 231 yards with 1TD and 1 INT, considering four-fifths of his starting OL was missing, he did quite well. Jones led scoring drives on their last four possessions, including a seven-minute, 15-play drive that covered 84 yards, for the game-winning points.
- Jones slid well in the pocket and Josh McDaniels bought him some more time by rolling him out often to evade the pass rush and give him a clear view of the field.
- McDaniels had an up and down game, but mostly up in this one. The Texans knew the Patriots wanted to run the ball, so when they went to play-action, they were able to generate some nice chunk plays. When they got to the red zone, however, he got ultraconservative (again), and called three straight screens that went nowhere. But the next time, they found Henry in the back corner of the end zone, which was a nice play call and good execution by Jones and Henry.
- Speaking of Henry, he had a very good day in the passing game catching 6 passes for 75 yards, including the touchdown in the back corner of the end zone from 13 yards out to tie the score.
- The Red Zone continues to hound the team, as they went 2-5, which actually is above their woeful season average. Harris’ fumble and the conservative play-calling were the culprits in the first two. On the Patriots’ final drive, they had a touchdown wiped out by a motion penalty. And because of the clock situation and the fact the Texans were out of timeouts, the conservative play calling was the right move. Two runs up the middle set the stage for Nick Folk to hit his fourth field goal of the day to win the game.
- Folk shook off his early missed PAT to have himself another really solid day, he hit two (2) 52-yard field goals before his game-winner. He’s been spot on this year again, making 12-13 FG attempts.
- While the Patriots should get high marks for being resilient and never quitting, they really should have never been in the position they were. But the Texans, who were very aggressive (and successful) early in the game, got too cute later on and it changed the game.
- On a 4th and 2, Houston rolled out its punter Cameron Johnston about half the distance that he’d normally be lined up, trying to entice the Patriots into jumping offside. But then when they had him punt, he was too close to his protection and he booted the ball off his punt protector’s head and the ball rolled out of bounds right around the line of scrimmage. I can’t ever recall seeing that happen. That was the game-changer. Taking over inside Houston territory, the Patriots kicked a field goal and were on their way to the comeback.
- That bone-headed play put an end to the Texans’ aggressiveness, after their flea-flicker touchdown, the offense bogged down and they only had one drive that got any yardage, but it stalled, and rather than try another 4th and 3, Texans coach Cam Culley opted for a 56-yard field goal that was missed.
- Ka’imi Fairbairn had a rough day, he had already shanked two extra points and had a kickoff go out of bounds, but Culley’s decision to opt for a 56-yarder was a head-scratcher. Add that to the punt off their own man’s head and it wasn’t a stellar day for Houston’s STs.
- The Texans aided the Patriots on their final drive when they got flagged for roughing the passer after the Patriots failed on a 3rd and 16. In-ex-cusable.
- Matthew Judon continues to be outstanding for the Patriots’ defense. The red-sleeved one got two more sacks, stopping a drive before the half and bringing him to 6.5 on the season. He also scooped up the fumble on the game’s final play. Jamie Collins returned and chipped in with a sack of Mills which was needed at the time.
So, the team will have a happy flight home, and start preparing for the Dallas Cowboys who wiped out the Giants in the late game this afternoon.
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Devin McCourty Jamie Collins Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers