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Patriots 27, Texans 20: 10 quick thoughts from Week 1 win

Ryan Hannable
September 09, 2018 - 4:13 pm
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FOXBORO — The Patriots have dominated the Texans over the years, and the trend continued Sunday in Week 1 of the 2018 regular season.

New England jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead and was able to hang on for a 27-20 win.

Tom Brady paced the offense, going 26-for-39 with 277 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The defense also did an admirable job keeping Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in check, which was a major key in the victory. The Houston quarterback finished with under 200 yards passsing.

Here are 10 quick thoughts on the game.

1. One of the biggest storylines going in was how the Patriots offense would look with their depleted receiving depth and also without Julian Edelman, but that wasn’t an issue at all. Everyone chipped in, as Brady completed passes to eight different receivers. The offense utilized two running back sets a lot with James White and Rex Burkhead, and ran a number of different plays out of them to keep the Houston defense on its toes. On some plays both were in the backfield, while on others one would line up wide and the other in the backfield.

2. The Brady-Rob Gronkowski connection is alive and well. Gronkowski finished the game with seven receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. Their first half touchdown connection was the 76th time Brady and Gronkowski have connected for a touchdown, which is fifth most all-time in NFL history. It's also second-most for a quarterback and tight end. Gronkowski was clearly the guy Brady looked to when the offense needed a play.

3. While the offense was good, the defense was the story of the game. Watson was frustrated all game long as the defense put consistent pressure on him and made things very difficult. The front-seven also did a good job in setting the edge so he couldn’t escape and make plays with his feet. It was interesting to see the Patriots play mostly a 3-4 defense, something they haven’t done much of in recent years. As it relates to Watson, he doesn't look 100 percent back with his knee, especially when it comes to running.

4. It was also good to see consistent pressure from the defensive line, without having to send any extra rushers. In the past, this has been an area where the unit has struggled. A number of players rotated in and out with Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise having great games on the edge, along with Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton in the middle. Houston’s offensive line did struggle, but the Patriots defense deserves credit for its strong performance. Also, Brian Flores and the defensive coaches had a great game plan.

5. Lots of credit needs to go to the Patriots offensive line, as they did a tremendous job against the powerful Houston front-seven (although it did appear to get more tired as the game went on and let up some pressures in the fourth quarter). J.J. Watt recorded his first tackle of the game with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. In the fourth, Watt recorded his first ever regular-season sack of the Patriots quarterback. It’s clear the two have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Marcus Cannon and LaAdrian Waddle rotated at right tackle and Trent Brown held up fine at left tackle in his first game as a Patriot.

6. It seemed like the Patriots really liked their matchups against Houston linebacker Zach Cunningham in coverage. A number of plays in the first half were targeted towards Cunningham, whether it was Burkhead, White or even Gronkowski. This was likely something the Patriots saw on tape and looked to exploit -- something the offense does every week.

7. Phillip Dorsett continued his strong summer into the regular season. He finished with seven catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. He will be key not only with Edelman out, but also when he returns so there isn’t as much pressure on him. Dorsett is much improved from a year ago as he can run all kinds of routes, not just go-routes like last year.

8. When it comes to areas of improvement, the Patriots’ tackling could have been better. The defense missed several tackles leading to long runs and same thing on special teams, which gave the Houston offense better field position than it deserved. Also in that same category, Riley McCarron fumbled a punt late in the game, leading to Houston's final score. Also, the Patriots failed to put Houston away a number of times in the second half.

9. We came away pretty unimpressed with Houston coach Bill O’Brien. He’s now faced the Patriots five times and is 0-5. He also made several poor decisions in the game, including at the end of the first half when Gronkowski made a catch that was questionable, but instead of taking a timeout to allow the referees to review it, the Patriots ran to the line and ran a play before anything could happen. The defense also did a poor job in coverage against Gronkowski, particularly in the red zone.

10. Jeremy Hill left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. Following Gronkowski’s fumble, James Develin hit Hill’s right knee hard. Hill needed assistance getting off the field and was immediately ruled out. This is not good, as the Patriots generally do not immediately rule players out. They are already a little shorthanded at the position with rookie running back Sony Michel working his way back from a knee injury.

 

With the win, the Patriots are now 10-1 against the Texans all-time, and 7-0 at home.

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