In their three other appearances at New England, the Texans gave up 40 or more points. In their latest outing, they failed to score any and ended up on the wrong end of Patriot performance that they might talk about for a long time in Massachusetts.
Any questions about Bill Belichick's ability to generate wins once the Tom Brady era ends have been put to rest. Jimmy Garoppolo looked terrific in his two games and Jacoby Brissett did more than hold up his end of the deal in his first career start.
The Texans could have made it a lot tougher on the home team. The thinking was that putting the rookie on a long field, time after time, would enable the defense to get the upper hand. But two kickoff return fumbles spelled doom, resulting in mini-field scores that basically put the game out of reach before the third quarter clock ran out.
LeGarrette Blount had only 11 yards at the half yet ended up with 105 and two touchdowns as the Patriots running game got stronger, deeper into the night. Brissett barely had to throw it. And that was fine for Belichick, whose defense stole the show.
Check out the best photos from Gillette Stadium as the Texans take on the Patriots.
The Texans offense couldn't sustain any drives past the New England 36-yard line. Brock Osweiler threw the ball 41 times, but the passing game only racked up 196 yards. Lamar Miller continued his early season work load with another 22 carries for a total of 75 on the year. But the 284 total yards weren't nearly enough to overcome three turnovers and three 4th-down stops registered by the Patriots.
This was an unexpected masterpiece crafted by the artist, Belichick. New England's offense had just enough wrinkles to take advantage of the turnovers and plenty of horsepower to help grind out the win with the second half running game. And the defense extinguished Houston's big plays as the long play of the night was just an 18-yard pass to Will Fuller V V.
This one might sting for a while, but there's too much season left to let it shape the campaign. The division games haven't even started yet and there are huge days down the road at Minnesota, Denver and Green Bay.
But Bill O'Brien and his team will try to learn from the missed opportunity. They had a winnable game in their sights that slipped away as the night wore on. They need to be better in all phases if they want to hold their own with the best in the AFC. Good thing for them they'll get plenty of chances to prove themselves again.