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Patriots vs. Texans: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 27-6 victory over the Houston Texans.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Now this is how Mondays are supposed to feel!

I mean yeah, we're all still grumpy and miserable, because who likes Mondays? But at least we aren't grumpy and miserable on the heels of a Patriots loss the way we have been the past two weeks. New England went to Houston and righted the ship last night to the tune of a 27-6 beatdown that was never really in doubt due to yet another stellar performance from the defense. The Texans were only able to muster a pair of field goals that came from two big plays, but other than that the D was outstanding and the offense found its groove as New England closed out the day once again as the top seed in the AFC.

And let the record show that, against Denver and Philadelphia, I sat on the couch while watching the game. Against Houston, I was back in the old trusty recliner. So I'm not saying I'm the reason the Pats won, but I'm kind of the reason the Pats won.

  • These Sunday night games are just the worst. Thank goodness that's all over for the year. At least the Patriots won the toss; if Houston had won it and deferred I'm legit not sure I would have been able to handle it.
  • Dont'a Hightower's injury is such a huge loss. His lateral quickness and instinct for the anticipated running lane simply can't be duplicated. 
  • Ironically, the loss of Freeny to injury is kind of a huge gain. If the coaching staff is going to inexplicably go with this dud, then the only way to safety might be this injury.
  • Maybe Freeny is a Stone Temple Pilots fan, as I am. If so, he's mourning the loss of Scott Weiland last week. But might I advise that Freeny take time with a wounded hand. 'Cause it likes to heal. No rush getting back out there - seriously. We got this.
  • I also heard Collinsworth mention something about how Bill Belichick said that Freeny more or less saved the team as they dealt with injuries. That Belichick is kind of right is depressing. But I would legit rather have Mike Vrabel suit up for the Patriots right now than Jonathan Freeny.
  • OK, that last note was absurd. But Vrabel is an all-time great Patriot.
  • New England matches up extremely well with this Texans offense in terms of pure personnel. Other than a handful of big plays, Houston really wasn't able to get anything going offensively.
  • And a big part of that is, once again, Logan Ryan. Ryan was asked to cover an opponent's most dangerous receiver, and once again he delivered. He played Hopkins brilliantly, shading him to the sidelines and taking advantage of the safety help. Hopkins led the team in receiving with three catches for 52 yards, and 40 of them came on one reception.
  • On that catch, the Texans were down 21 in the 4th quarter and Hopkins stared down the New England bench as he went back to the huddle. That's like a guy who gets a kiss from a stripper after a lap dance bragging to all his friends that she's totally into him.
  • As a side note, we all have those friends. Guys who insist that a waitress or bartender likes him because she's friendly and flirty and if he gives her a huge tip, he's in like Flynn. Sad. Anyway...
  • Dominique Easley has been absolutely dominant all year, and what I love most about that is that he doesn't really do anything fancy. He's just bigger and stronger than most. His injury was a scare, but it would appear that he's going to be OK. He was on the bike during the game and was seen running in place on the sideline, so it doesn't appear to be too serious. I just know that whenever I curl up in the fetal position on the ground and go completely still, one of three things just happened: I just took a shot to the pills, there's a bear on the loose and I'm afraid to move, or one of my friends' wives (who will remain nameless, for both my safety and for his) is coming and isn't very happy that a group of grown men in their 30s still find beer pong to be an acceptable way to pass the time.
  • How many of you, seeing Leonard Johnson lining up for the first time, thought to yourself, "what the hell is Shane Vereen doing playing defense? And how did he find his way back onto the Patriots roster.?" Not that I'd really blame the guy for jumping ship and coming back to the Patriots.
  • And speaking of Johnson: considering that he went undrafted and wasn't much more than a rotational starter in Tampa, he had a very solid night. Several key pass breakups and showed decent awareness. And he has absolutely skyrocketed his way to the top of the unnecessary celebration power rankings.
  • So frustrating to see Blount running so well the past few weeks only to have him go down. Hopefully it isn't too serious.
  • I also read that Blount is averaging 4.2 yards per carry this season. What?
  • Brandon LaFell isn't a deep threat, LeGarrette Blount is not a short yardage back, Jonathan Freeny isn't a starting caliber LB, and Chris Collinsworth is not an announcer anybody enjoys listening to. Anything I missed?
  • Is it that it's just been a while since we've seen him, or has Vince Wilfork put on some weight this season?
  • You know how when someone retires from a career that is fairly physically demanding, they sometimes say "well, I think I'm going to cut back on the exercise and let myself go a little bit here." Is Wilfork going to do that? And what exactly would "letting yourself go" look like for Big Vince?
  • Not gonna lie - watching Vince give Bob Kraft a hug before the game got me a little misty eyed for a minute. Can't wait to watch a team of landscapers unroll the red tarp that is going to be is Patriots Hall of Fame jacket in a few years.
  • I just learned that the new Star Wars movie opens the same weekend as the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. I wonder what the record for largest opening day box office massacre is.
  • And watching Tommy B scramble and throw all the way across his body is terrifying. When that pass is to Gronk and I know he's about to get tackled I need a new pair of shorts.
  • Keyshawn Martin came to play yesterday, didn't he? He may have found his role as a punt retu-  oh. never mind.
  • Seriously, what's going on with the special teams as of late? This is now the third straight week where a bungled special teams play gave an opponent new life. Yesterday the defense was able to bail the unit out, but these things absolutely can't happen. How long before the Patriots simply stop sending guys back to return punts? Or just have Danny Amendola call a fair catch every single time?
  • Things I never thought I would say as a fan of the New England Patriots until this year:
  • Crap. The Pats have a 14 point lead late in the 3rd quarter.
  • Crap. The Patriots just forced a punt.
  • Hey, weird! A bunch of refs standing in a circle trying to figure out what the hell the call was!
  • That Houston personal foul that almost short-circuited Houston's first good drive of the game is the kind of flag that makes me not want to watch football anymore.
  • As good as Malcolm Butler has been this season, he has been getting burned consistently on deep passes where the receiver fakes an in-cut first. I'd love to see a metric of the yards he has given up in 2015 in relation to how many of those yards came on a deep route. Every CB has his weakness, and a double move deep is Butler's.
  • That said - another phenomenal game overall from the Super Bowl hero. Nate Washington was limited to one catch for 49 yards and Butler had several beautiful pass breakups, one of which saved a touchdown.
  • This was me after realizing that LeGarrette Blount was consistently running in a way that didn't get himself stuffed in the backfield after running into his own lineman's rump.
  • I have an idea as to how to make all of these referee conferences more bearable. Starting next year, for every second the officials spend in the huddle trying to figure out what just happened, the NFL will donate $1,000 towards CTE research. Tough to really get mad when referee incompetence leads to charitable causes. But watch how quickly the decisions get made if that were actually the case.
  • Speaking of CTE research, I'm amazed that that movie Concussion was allowed to see the light of day. The only thing I can think of that must have gotten it pushed through and given the OK by the NFL is if it ends up painting the Patriots as the biggest culprits.
  • Remember when Jadeveon Clowney was the going to change the world and he and J.J. Watt were going to singlehandedly win every game from here on out? Now in fairness, Clowney has been hurt for much of his career, and he did have a pretty decent game last night. But for the amount of hype he received in college - hype which was, to a large extent, generated primarily from one play - you kind of have to wonder at all the times he blew by the runner or got completely turned around by a screen or quick out.
  • How many more drops does LaFell have before he loses Brady's trust altogether? He is directly responsible for at least one field goal that could very easily have been a touchdown. Chalk him up as one of those players who might have seen extended time on the bench in years past when "healthy body" wasn't the primary criteria for being a starting receiver on this team.
  • I don't know about any of you, but I'd absolutely love to go a season without giving a Patriots receiver a nickname that has the word "drop" in it. Between Chad Dropson, Aaron Dropson, Brandon LaDrop, and Droppydrop McDropperson, there's almost a full receiving corps there.
  • I will give credit where credit is due, though, and acknowledge when Lafell has made some nice catches in important situations. Just before halftime last night was one of them, and he is kind of hitting his stride on those quick screens.
  • Brian Cushing seems like the kind of guy who used to remind the teacher when she forgot to collect last night's homework.
  • I may as well just talk about J.J. Watt now and get it over with.
  • Don't get me wrong; I think that Watt is a very, very good player. I'd love to have him on my team, and he has the kind of skillset that any defensive coordinator would kill for. But that said, he isn't Chuck Norris. His tears don't cure cancer. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone he didn't have three missed calls from J.J. Watt. He hasn't counted to infinity twice. He is just another athlete in a sea of good athletes that the mainstream media realizes is very marketable and can make a lot of people a lot of money and so narratives get manufactured about him and then shoved down our throats as we all get forced to buy into the hype whether we like it or not. Tim Tebow was one. Rhonda Rousey is another, as was Jeremy Lin. You get athletes that are created by the media at every level. That isn't Watt's fault, nor is it a knock on him. If he didn't have the talent, he wouldn't have been selected as a product of media hype. But when you see everyone coming out of the woodwork to make excuses for why he only had three tackles yesterday and act as if Watt is the first player to have ever gotten double teamed at the line and hear Watt attributing his day to only having one hand, it makes me concerned that he has bought into his own hype and is about to become completely insufferable. End rant.
  • What's up with all of these marriages between couples of rival fans? What Packers fan in her right mind would marry a Bears fan? "Brady or Manning" is literally the second question I ask a potential life partner. If she answers wrong, it wasn't meant to be and the date ends right then and there.
  • I'm so numb to injuries at this point that when Blount went down it didn't even phase me. That he walked to the locker room early as opposed to getting carted there was something I considered a huge win.
  • It might be time to launch a grassroots James White campaign to get him some more touches. How do these things work? Kickstarter? GoFundMe? Should I maybe try to rally some overpriviledged, entitled college students to protest the lack of James White as highly indicative of the cultural and socioeconomic bias prevalent in African American players whose last name is "White" and have them protest until he gets more carries? Anyone have any ideas?
  • You know what sucks? Even airline commercials that try to make a point about how cramped the seating is still uses seats for the ad that are infinitely bigger and more spacious than what we get in reality.
  • That corner route to Gronk was extra sweet for so many reasons. Hey, here's a thought: let's discuss them all right now!
  • Two weeks ago we all thought Gronk's season was over. That he's back out there making TD grabs so soon is just gooey and delicious.
  • We haven't seen that TE spread package at the goal line in a very long time, and for the Pats to revisit it bodes well.
  • It was a score right before half to give the Patriots the chance to go up 24-6 in the third quarter.
  • It was a throw that Brady has struggled to make in the past this season, and it was a great combination of accuracy from Tommy B and aggressiveness from Gronk.
  • Gronk wasn't flagged for OPI on the play.
  • If I never see that Denver replay where Gronk gets carted off again it will be too soon.
  • I think I have finally found a football non-event that rivals the camera cutting to Brady sitting on the sidelines drinking Gatorade: the camera replaying a Watt down in which he does absolutely nothing. I mean seriously... how many times can you show J.J. Watt not doing anything? The last time there was this much attention to someone being ineffective I was in junior high school and everyone at the entire track meet was waiting for me to finish up my dead last leg of the 400 meter relay race so everyone could just go home already.
  • Chris Collinsworth watching a replay and realizing that a challenge is going to go against the Patriots is the NFL equivalent of a 13 year old boy who has been asked to turn his back while the girls all change suddenly realizing that there's a conveniently placed mirror on the wall. Just giddy and giggly and reveling in the moment.
  • And regarding those challenges, and challenges in general, here is my impression of how it works: the call on the field is absolutely crucial, as unless there is clear-cut, incontrovertible, undeniable evidence to the contrary, the call will stand. If it isn't 1,000% definitive, or if there isn't conclusive evidence one way or another, then whatever the initial ruling on the field was will stand. On the Danny Amendola catch, for example, it couldn't have been more obvious that the ball hit the ground, and so the refs overturned it. On the James White catch, however - which was one of the sweetest grabs you'll ever see, especially from a running back - absolutely nothing I saw, from any angle, caused me to say "his foot was absolutely on the white marker." It was kind of fuzzy from all angles. He might have stepped out, but his heel might not have touched. Not really sure one way or another. So the call should have stood. If the refs had called that incomplete and the Patriots had challenged, it should have stood as well. I'm extremely concerned that the order from the front office in regards to how referees should handle their officiating is to base the call with the review booth in mind, as in they don't really need to get it right the first time because replay will always be there to bail them out. This game is going to hell.
  • I'm absolutely amazed that the Pats weren't flagged on that 4th and 4 for being in perfect coverage.
  • Who needs Devin McCourty? Who needs Patrick Chung? Who needs Dominique Easley? Who needs football players?
  • That Brandon Bolden, who is 5'11", 215 pounds, is able to break tackles and keep his legs churning and pick up yards after contact and LeGarrette Blount, who is 250, cannot, is as confusing to me as vegetarian bacon.
  • Why does every Patriots third quarter last for three hours?
  • When Jeff Triplette passes away, his tombstone is going to read, "Here lies Jeff Triplette. The ruling on the field has changed."
  • Watching Danny Amendola make the catch, try to duck and cut inside, and get tackled almost immediately makes me really miss Julian Edelman.
  • Holy Jeez did Bryan Stork get lit up on the James White touchdown run. But holy Jeez was that a great playcall. Spread the Texans out, get their big guys off the field, play pass, and then run the draw to catch Houston completely off guard. Josh McDaniels is back. Don't know where he has been (probably in the waiting room at the infirmary), but I hope he got kicked out and is never allowed back.
  • The only time Logan Ryan gave up a play last night was when anyone decided to mention that Logan Ryan hasn't been giving up any plays.
  • Great discipline from the Patriots defense last night. Houston tried all kinds of trickery, but the Pats stayed at home and maintained their assignments. The Texans seemed to try almost every gadget play there was to try and move the ball, but kept coming up snake-eyes.
  • Well... almost every gadget play.
  • Not the best day for Tre Jackson yesterday. Vince Wilfork gave him a very nice "welcome to the NFL" and had a few key holding penalties kill drives.
  • Great catch and run, Gronk. Now get the hell out of the game.
  • Collinsworth on Gronk: "what do you do with Gronkowski? What do you do with him?" Well, let me tell you, Chris: you make up your own set of rules for him to make it harder for him to succeed.
  • What do you think went through Brian Hoyer's mind as he took that last sack and ended up with his face directly in his own butt? I'd like to think it was "welp...at least I'm not Mark Sanchez."
  • Patriots, up 21 late, kept Tommy B in and kept throwing. No all around.
  • I'm calling shenanigans on Walmart saying that kids would rather get a gift for someone else than receive one themselves. I'm wondering how many kids said "screw those kids, get me my presents!" before they got enough to fill up a commercial.
  • And in the too much information department: I didn't shower or put on pants all weekend, so by the time this Sunday's slate of games was over, my apartment could have rivaled the New England laundry bin.

All is once again right with the world. The Patriots got a win, secured a playoff spot, regained control of the AFC, and have a chance to lock up the division tonight if the Giants beat the Dolphins. A home game against the awful, awful Titans could lead to securing a first round bye, and from there it's all about finishing the season strong.