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Patriots vs. Texans: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 34-31 victory over the Houston Texans.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The way I see it, Thanksgiving weekend is unhealthy enough as it is. With all of the eating sleeping, and hydrating - mostly the latter - that went on over the last few days, my poor body and fragile immune system was officially on amber alert. So the last thing that I or anyone else needed to cap off a four-day gluttony binge was the heart-attack in a can that was this Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots game. What was supposed to be a fairly mundane matchup turned into an offensive shootout in which the Patriots once again couldn't stop the run, couldn't generate defensive pressure, and went into halftime down multiple scores. But, in what seems to be becoming a trend as of late, the Pats made some excellent halftime adjustments and scored on almost all of their third and fourth quarter possessions to come away with a 34-31 win, courtesy of two huge field goals from Stephen Gostkowski.

Yes, the defense is a concern. And yes, these slow starts are troubling. But the bottom line is that New England got the win, put up 30 plus points on the #1 defense in the NFL, and came away with a solid road victory that puts them a win over Cleveland at home and a Miami loss at Pittsburgh away from clinching yet another AFC East title on their way to securing a playoff bye. You take that sweet action any time you can get it.

  • What made me most nervous about this game going in was how not nervous I was. I don't know if I was still riding high from the Denver game or if I was still stuffed from Thanksgiving, but my usual pregame nerves were nowhere to be found for the start of this game and I didn't like it one bit.
  • Reliant Stadium at the start of this game looked like the red VIP seats at Gillette all the time.
  • How great would it be to return a kickoff 45 yards just once this year?
  • Can you imagine being an NFL running back and playing with three cracked ribs? I call in sick to work if I get out of bed too fast in the morning and end up lightheaded. On the plus side for Ben Tate, he was completely untouched for most of the game, so I'm sure his ribs are just fine this morning.
  • Chandler Jones saw a significant amount of double teams yesterday, which freed up....absolutely rush the passer uninhibited.
  • Will Svitek looks like a fat version of Billy Zane. That's the only note I have for New England's first offensive drive, as it lasted about eight seconds.
  • When a team is down to basically one offensive weapon, you'd figure part of your defensive gameplan would be to cover said offensive weapon. I'd like to know what the hand signal is for "let Andre Johnson run free across the middle for a huge gain" is.
  • As he has been in past games, Tommy B was inaccurate and indecisive to start. Gronk was open on the Jonathan Joseph pick, but Brady just underthrew it after staring the receiver down for too long. He had time to throw, but there was never a comfortable pocket around him. as the pressure kept closing in.
  • We're now at the point where I consider a day with zero running back fumbles a win. But overall I'm happy with how the running game went yesterday. Blount in particular had a big bounceback game, running hard for positive yards and serving as the back we all thought he was going to be following a solid preseason.
  • You know what we have really been missing this season? That quick five yard out route from the slot on 3rd and short that Wes Welker did so well. That play was always as close to a guaranteed first down as it gets, and we don't seem to have a play like that this year. Brady has tried it with Gronk and Ammendola on occasion, but neither of those guys are as quick on the release as Welker was.
  • After Kenbrell Thompkins got hurt and Josh Boyce replaced him, I thought to myself, "who do the Patriots have at receiver now besides Edelman?" I completely forgot that Danny Amendola was on the team. Not quite what I was hoping for this season.
  • I'd like to think that when Rob Gronkowski was younger (or perhaps sometime last week) and couldn't figure out for the life of him how to tie his shoes, his father told him that one day he's going to need to know how to reach down and effectively grab those laces. Looks like that fatherly advice finally paid off. One of the best TD grabs of the year.
  • I also like that Gronk's spikes have been all business so far in 2013. No showboating, so dances, just a straight up bomb.
  • Case Keenum seems like one of those players who, once you give him the chance to realize that he isn't going to immediately explode on the very first play, gains a lot of confidence very quickly. And, as it has so, so, so SO many times in years past, New England's defense is just the unit to instill that confidence.
  • Here's a question that I never, ever want to answer - how would you rank the following quarterbacks who have looked like All-Stars against the New England Patriots defense? Shaun Hill, Curtis Painter, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chad Henne, Colt McCoy, Trent Green.
  • I'd like to hear Matt Patricia's line of thinking in opening the game with a zone defense. I'm no expert, but it really, really wasn't working against the Texans. They eventually switched more to a man/zone hybrid which worked better, but it seemed like when Houston receivers got open, they were wide open.
  • I feel like Brandon Spike watches the play pass right by him far more often than he blows it up in the backfield.
  • There's a big difference between a DB who records a lot of picks because he's in the right place at the right time and a DB who is instinctive and proactively tries to make a play. Logan Ryan is a member of the latter group. I absolutely love his intelligence and ability to be around the play.
  • How lethal is our tight end duo? Rob Gronkowski and Matthew Mulligan just tearing it up.
  • That deep playaction play to Edelman that fell just short looked a little familiar. Too bad the result wasn't the same. Fool me once...
  • Brooks Reed's Roughing the Passer Call was as garbage a penalty as I've seen so far this year - and that includes the non-PI call on Gronk in the end zone. Reed was literally falling down and trying to get out of the way and Brady got knocked into him. They need to re-examine that penalty in the offseason. You should be allowed to touch a quarterback's helmet.
  • I would, however, also be open to the notion of QBs going completely helmetless. That would help to even the odds a bit.
  • It seems that at least once a game, a pass rusher charges in completely unblocked and sacks Tommy B for a huge loss. Furthermore, it usually isn't some nobody; a guy that the offensive line should be aware of at all times somehow goes undetected and stalls a drive with a sack. That's something that we're not used to with an O-Line coach like Dante Scarnecchia leading the group.
  • It also seems that at least once a game, the defense gives up a screen for huge yards that leaves them looking somewhat lost, like they have never seen a screen pass before.
  • Keenum had an absolutely phenomenal game against the blitz. Every time the Patriots brought extra pressure, he knew it was coming and got rid of the ball quickly
  • The NFL is a copycat how long before teams all across the AFC start spotting their opponents two scores before they start getting to work?
  • Seriously...I don't know what's going on with the first half offense as of late, but it's just like me after too much stuffing and mashed potatoes - stopped up.
  • I used to think that the sweetest gig in the NFL was third string quarterback; now I'm starting to think it's the punter for whatever team is playing against the Patriots.
  • We may not have officially reached the tipping point regarding injuries on defense - but we are definitely one missed chord away from being muerto.
  • One thing that I have found surprising this season is that there are those out there who legitimately think that Dont'a Hightower is having a good season. There are more of them than you think, and I have absolutely no idea where this opinion comes from. He has always been a coverage liability, but now he is having trouble diagnosing the run. He got blown up on his gap assignment that led to Houston's second touchdown of the day and seems to have forgotten how to shed a block. Maybe too much was put on his shoulders too early, but at this point the only place I feel comfortable with him is when he is blitzing the QB on passing downs. On almost every big Texans play, he was involved in some way.
  • James Develin may have my favorite Patriots rushing TD in the last 10 years. That run looked just like me trying to walk home after last call at the Old Carriage Inn in Brooklyn.
  • If Develin ever mugged me and the police asked me to describe my attacker, I think all I'd need to say is "he looked like an NFL fullback." They'd probably pick him up in about ten minutes.
  • Brandon Spikes is playing hurt.
  • You gotta give Matt Schaub credit for keeping his helmet on all game, just in case. It was very cute. He's like a kid who still wears his glove at a baseball game even after learning his seats are behind home plate in the netted area.
  • I'll be curious to see what the breakdown of huddle to no-huddle plays were for New England and what the success rate was. I felt like the no-huddle worked extremely well yesterday but wasn't used all that much.
  • Did Dan Dierdorf imply that Josh McDaniels may possibly be Canton bound? Did I hear that right?
  • So...what exactly goes on at halftime in the New England locker room? Epic speech? Steroid shots? Promise of punch and pie if they rally?
  • I love how Dierdorf calls Gronksowski "The Gronk," like he's some kind of robot. Then again, maybe he is.
  • Hey, weird...Hightower with another blown coverage. I wonder if at this point it's a case of "we traded up to get this guy, I have to stick with him" more than he is legitimately the best option they have.
  • I realize that I'm being a little harsh on Hightower today, and to set the record straight I'm not advocating for giving up on him. He's a high upside guy in his second year with some very big shoes to fill with the loss of Mayo, so I'm glad he's getting his reps. But the fact of the matter is that he isn't having a great year, and compared to fellow first round pick Chandler Jones, who made a huge jump this season, it's easy to get down on him.
  • Hightower was also at fault for the ensuing run that set up Keenum's touchdown run. Got stood up at the line and shoved effortlessly out of the way as Ben Tate blew right by him.
  • Looking at Stevan Ridley on the sidelines holding a football made me think that Bill Belichick took a page from James Caan in The Program, which makes me wonder if this ever happened during film sessions.
  • With Josh Boyce having a relatively quiet day in the return game, I'm officially out of ideas on how to start a drive beyond the 20. If anyone out there has any suggestions, I'm all ears.
  • Gotta catch those back shoulder passes, Vereen. Especially the ones that bounce off your chest.
  • Kyle Arrington, just stay in the slot FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!
  • I'd like to think that Arrington lost it in the sun on that blown coverage...but they were in a dome. I also don't get how playing cornerback six yards to the right or left is so fundamentally different that Arrington goes from stud to Shane almost every time.
  • It would appear that the Patriots are back to the ol' "hope for an incompletion" style of defense.
  • I will say this - and this has been true for most of the season - when it's time for the defense to make a play, they make one. The D line couldn't get to Keenum all day, but came up with a huge sack when they needed them to. I was waiting for a monster completion to Andre Johnson on that 4th and 13 play.
  • I think I may have found an NFL player who is in worse shape than me, and that NFL player is Randy Bullock. Bullock looks like every single guy who ever made a New Year's resolution to get in shape, only to wander aimlessly around the gym three or four times before calling it quits.
  • I mean seriously - look at this guy. He should either be ripping my ticket stub at the movie theater or singing backup to Andy Bernard with Here Comes Treble.
  • Dierdorf completely killed my joke when he made fun of himself for struggling so mightly to spell the word "perfect." I had like six different lines running through my head as soon as he finished, but then he launched a pre-emptive strike by acknowledging his own idiocy. Well played, sir.
  • I mentioned earlier this week that the only team in the AFC capable of beating the New England Patriots is the New England Patriots, and that observation was on full display during yesterday's game. They played equally lousy and great, depending on the half, and luckily the good outweighed the bad. But this team needs to put together 60 minutes of football very, very soon.
  • On to Cleveland. And hopefully the only time I ever actually say that for the rest of my life is in a football capacity.