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5 Things to Watch: Texans vs. Patriots

Posted Dec 1, 2013

Drew Dougherty detailed five key storylines to follow for the matchup between the Texans and Patriots.

*Here are five things to watch when the Texans host the Patriots on Sunday at noon CT in Reliant Stadium. 

1. Comeback Case- The past two contests for Case Keenum have been largely forgettable. He's a combined 31-of-58 for 239 yards, with a pair of interceptions and just one touchdown pass. In the three games prior, he'd thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. To play the way he wants and needs to, Keenum said he have to return to the basics.

"I’m focusing on my fundamentals and focusing on the process, focusing on things that I’ve always done well," Keenum said. "I have to continue to do that. I can’t just take that stuff for granted.”

Part of Keenum's adjutsment to the NFL has been taking snaps under center, as opposed to out of the shotgun formation. Head coach Gary Kubiak said he and the coaches are trying to find a happy medium in that area.

"We’re continuing to find out what he does best and take a hard look at everything we changed offensively a little bit to try to fit some of his strengths," Kubiak said. "So it has come back to doing a little bit of both and we’re trying to sort through that and see what we think he does best."

2. Run game vs. Patriots- Ben Tate leads the Texans with 129 carries for 544 yards in 2013. But last week against the Jaguars, he was held to just a yard on seven carries. Rookie Dennis Johnson, meanwhile, picked up 74 yards on 13 carries against the Jaguars. Kubiak said both will get snaps against New England.

"As long as DJ continues to learn, protection-wise, and he can protect our quarterback, and I can be comfortable with that stuff, I think we continue to get him more and more," Kubiak said.

Tate, though, is as healthy as he's been since breaking four ribs at Kansas City.

"I think you’ll see Ben bounce back," Kubiak said. "He actually practiced a little bit more this week than he has in the past month. So hopefully that helps out.”

3. Milestones for Johnson- Wide receiver Andre Johnson has 74 catches for 1,002 yards this season. With eight more catches, he'll have 900 for his career. If he accomplishes that on Sunday, he'll be the second-fastest to ever do it, as Marvin Harrison cracked the 900-catch mark in just 149 career games. This will be Johnson's 150th.

With 32 receiving yards, he'll move past Jimmy Smith into 17th place on the NFL's all-time receiving yardage list.

But to do so, he'll likely have to get the better of Patriots' cornerback Aqib Talib. In the regular season matchup and playoff matchup last season, the veteran Texan pass-catcher had an odd statistic.

Eight catches for 95 yards. In both games. All told, he finished with a combined 16 catches for 190 yards. But said Talib is a challenge.

“Lot of respect for each other," Johnson said. "That was something we said after we went against each other. I think he’s one of the top guys in the league in my opinion. You like going against guys like that. You get to see what his game is and it’s a challenge. You like to go against the best.”

4. Jackson's Back- After missing the last two games, and part of a third in the loss at Arizona, Kareem Jackson will be back on the field.

The cornerback broke a rib against the Cardinals, but practiced all three days this week and will play versus New England.

He and the rest of the Texans' defense will have a big challenge waiting for them in quarterback Tom Brady. With 2,896 passing yards and 17 touchdown tosses, the future Pro Football Hall of Famer is enjoying another splendid season. Further, he's been aided by the return from injury of tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola.

5. Pressure on Brady- The Patriots' quarterback has been sacked 31 times in 2013. 10 of those sacks came in the three losses on the New England ledger. Three of his seven interceptions this season have come in those losses as well. Defensive end Antonio Smith said Friday the way to slow down Brady and the Patriots' offense is simple.

"Sack him," Smith said.

Fellow defensive end J.J. Watt is impressed by Brady and company, and he knows the Texans' defense will be tested.

“You have to know exactly what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to execute it," Watt said. "Obviously, that’s something that we’re ready for. And we’re practicing and making sure that everybody knows exactly where they’re supposed to be and how they’re supposed to play.”

Watt and Smith have combined for 14.5 sacks in 2013. Watt leads the NFL with 35 quarterback hits.


Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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