December 1, 2019 isn't going to be a date that goes down in history, but for Texans fans, it was a night of celebration that had been ten years in the making. After eight difficult games and ten years, the Texans finally beat the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots in front of a packed house of anxious Texans fans 28-22 in a game that wasn't as close as the final outcome. Just under a year later, though, things have been significantly different for both teams heading into their nearly annual contest.
The Patriots enter this game with a non-.500 record for the first time in what seems like forever. There is no Tom Brady and the offense has done an about face, turning into a barbaric, 21 personnel rushing-based group. Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots truly bullied the Ravens defense, rushing for 173 yards on 39 carries in a 23-17 upset win on Sunday night.
Defensively, the Patriots don't have a ton of names Texans fans will recognize, but don't get it twisted, this defense is as physical as any the Texans defense has faced this year, including Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore.
With no further ado, let's get to Know Week Eleven Foe - the New England Patriots.
2020 Schedule (4-5)
W, Miami Dolphins 21-11
L, @ Seattle Seahawks 35-30
W, Las Vegas Raiders 36-20
L, @ Kansas City Chiefs 26-10
L, Denver Broncos 18-12
L, San Francisco 49ers 33-6
L, @ Buffalo Bills 30-27
W, @ New York Jets 30-27
W, Baltimore Ravens 23-17
Patriots OFFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 161.1 ypg (2nd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 194.8 ypg (29th)
Total offense per game - 355.9 ypg (19th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (11 INT, 4 Fumbles lost)
Expected Patriots starting offense for Week Eleven
QB - CAM NEWTON
RB - DAMIEN HARRIS
FB - JAKOB JOHNSON
WR - Jakobi Meyers
WR - DAMIERE BYRD/Julian Edelman (eligible to return from injury)
TE - RYAN IZZO
LT - Isaiah Wynn
LG - Joe Thuney
C - David Andrews
RG - Shaq Mason
RT - MICHAEL ONWENU
Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Rex Burkhead
RB - James White
WR - N'Keal Harry
Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Patriots Offense
- Disrupt downhill running lanes - Damien Harris had runway last week against the Ravens and he was able to get to the second level in a hurry. He can't get to the first level without having to slow down or it's trouble for the Texans defense
- Be well aware of ALL the Patriots tricks - Last week, it was a Jakobi Meyers double pass for a touchdown. It's been reverses and double passes for years and ALWAYS in the perfect spot. Awareness is the key - staying aware at all times.
- Can the Texans exploit a sixth round rookie at tackle? - Michael Onwenu has been superb for the Patriots throughout his rookie campaign but can he handle facing someone like J.J. Watt? Even if it's not Watt, the Texans have to find a way to put the talented rookie in peril at the line of scrimmage.
- Answer physical with physical - the Patriots offensive performance last week was brutally, statistically efficient but most importantly, the Patriots physical play was at an exceedingly high level. The Texans MUST, at a minimum, match that physical mindset. If not, it's going to be a long afternoon.
- A turnover isn't too much to ask - Self explanatory, really.
Patriots DEFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 129.2 ypg (24th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 224.1 ypg (10th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 353.3 ypg (13th)
Turnovers generated - 15 (11 INT, 4 Fumble recoveries - Patriots are even in TO margin)
Expected Patriots starting defense for Week Eleven
DE - Lawrence Guy
NT - CARL DAVIS
DE - Deatrich Wise Jr.
DE - Adam Butler
OLB - John Simon
LB - Terez Hall
OLB - CHASE WINOVICH
CB - J.C Jackson
S - KYLE DUGGER
S - ADRIAN PHILLIPS
S - Devin McCourty
CB - Jason McCourty
Other Key Defensive pieces
WR/ST - Matt Slater
LB - Ja'Whaun Bentley
DB - Terrence Brooks
CB - Jonathan Jones
S - Cody Davis
LB - Anfernee Jennings
DT - Byron Cowart
Bold - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New starter in 2020
Keys to winning v. the Patriots Defense
- Slow Guy - Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy won't go to Pro Bowls. He's not the most well known Patriot, but he IS the one guy the Texans have struggled to block effectively for years. He won't crush the stat sheet, but he'll tie up blockers all day and make life miserable for the Texans offensive line.
- Be Efficient through the air - The Texans didn't light up the air with footballs last year, but when Deshaun Watson did toss the rock, he made one big play after another. J.C. Jackson (six straight games with a pick) is lurking in the secondary, but Watson has multiple weapons to challenge Jackson and the Patriots secondary.
- If… - If left tackle Laremy Tunsil doesn't play due to illness, the Texans will probably use Rod Johnson at left tackle. Given the Patriots penchant for creative blitz/rush schemes, Johnson and the left side will need some help from tight ends and running backs to keep Watson upright to pitch the pill all around the field.
- Quick hit the run game - the Texans showed a few different looks last week at Cleveland that got the run game going against a physical defense. It'll need similar looks, perhaps more often.
- The tighter, the better - the Texans tight ends were effective in last year's win against the Patriots and Darren Fells touchdown reception came with all three Texans tight ends on the field. The Texans tight ends have been one of the brightest spots this year, again, and Sunday might be one of those games that the tight ends become even more valuable.