If you told me before the game that the Patriots would cough the ball up three times, twice on short fields and the Texans would run for over 160 yards, I would say that it was finally their day to win in New England.
A Texans fumble on the first play from scrimmage gave New England a short field. Moments later, Tom Brady would find Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown as the Patriots took a seven point lead. That turned out to be the winning margin, as the Texans made a late run to close the gap.
It had been ten months since Deshaun Watson had been in a game and there was some rust to shake off. The Texans were certainly hoping to not have to play the premiere team in professional sports without Will Fuller and rookie Keke Coutee, but they did have enough fire power to compete.
The biggest problems seemed to be self-inflicted. The early fumble, the deep ball interception and two penalties that ruined a late first half drive, giving the ball back to the greatest quarterback who ever lived.
That late first half sequence was rough. The penalties forced a punt. New England deflected it but the Texans got a fortuitous bounce to the Patriot 22-yard line. Brady eventually found Gronk on a controversial deep ball. A few plays later, Brady hit Phillip Dorsett for the third and final New England touchdown of the day.
The second half saw a fired up Texans defense hold the Patriot offense to six points. Houston’s attack put two touchdowns on the board but could never really get rolling.
We all knew that Bill Belichick would game plan for Watson and had the potential to make like difficult for him and his receivers. Houston’s passing game never got firing like last year. Three sacks and some miscommunications kept the completion percentage at 50. There were no huge plays as the longest passing gain was 27 yards.
Bill O’Brien and his staff have plenty of video and teaching examples to pour over before the game plan gets uploaded for week two. We’ve seen the offense get hot before and we’ll see it again.
The defense was healthy coming in. And they had their hands full, as all teams do, dealing with Brady. But without the early short field, this might have been an in-context masterpiece on that side of the ball. The pass rush woke up in the second half as J.J. Watt started to heat up and D.J. Reader racked up two sacks.
Other bright spots included Tyler Ervin who returned every kick past the 25-yard line, something that the Texans have had difficulty doing with consistency. And Tyrann Mathieu made a eye-opening Texans debut with a pick and a fumble recovery off Kareem Jackson’s strip of Gronkowski.
Win or lose in Foxborough, the team knew that a road trip to a division opponent awaited them. There’s no time to think about what might have been. It’s a bitter loss but there’s a whole season to play with endless possibilities.
Traveling Texans Photos: Texans at Patriots
Know someone that traveled to the Texans game against the Patriots? See if they made it on the Traveling Texans album presented by Rico's.