Jacoby Brissett led the New England Patriots offense on two drives in the first quarter that appeared to faceplant when JB tried to launch a rocket downfield on third down. You had the checkdowns, dude! What are you doing, trying to be some Brett Favre glory boy?!?
As usual, Josh McDaniels had something cooked up that would open up the game plan everyone thought the Patriots and their rookie QB were going to run all along – quick passes and LeGarrette Blount Hulk-smashing the Texans run defense.
Raise your hand if you saw Blount’s first run of the night – a run to the left tackle for no gain with Cameron Fleming playing jumbo tight end – and thought "Oh boy, this is going to be a LONG night."
Here’s how the Patriots gamebook described the play:
1-10-NE 31 C. Fleming reported in as eligible. L. Blount left tackle to NE 31 for no gain.
Next up, a short pass to Julian Edelman for 6 yards. Sweet. Third and four, totally manageable…
…and then Brissett blasts it deep to the left for Chris Hogan, who can’t haul it in. Punt time!
Fast forward a few minutes to 6:59 in the first quarter, where a Texans punt gave the Pats the ball back at their own 20-yard line after a touchback. What does the McOffense dial up?
1-10-NE 20 (Shotgun) J. Brissett pass short left to M. Bennett to NE 25 for 5 yards.
Second and 5, dig it. Let’s try and get that running game going again, and…
Well, shoot. Blount stopped again for no gain. To third and 5 we go...
3-5-NE 25 (Shotgun) J. Brissett pass incomplete deep left to J. Edelman.
(Luckily, a pass interference penalty on Houston CB Jonathan Joseph gave the Patriots a first down anyway, and they ended up kicking a field goal later in the drive, but that’s not the point here.)
That’s twice on New England’s first two possessions that LeGarrette Blount couldn’t get anything cooking on the ground. It was also twice that Jacoby Brissett bombed it downfield on what just about any offensive coordinator would see as third and decent. Who’s calling these plays, Bruce Arians?
Fast forward just a few minutes again, to Jacoby’s Sonic the Hedgehog 27-yard touchdown run at the end of the first quarter. Brissett fakes the handoff to Blount, rolls out to the right, and turned on the jets to put six on the board and score his first NFL touchdown. It was a quarterback run all along.
Here’s where it looks like McDaniels was playing the long con - odds are, the Houston Texans were expecting Jacoby to stick with a lot of short passes, like screens and slants and drags, and a steady ground game, just like New England has used for their last two games against Arizona and Miami.
So what does he do?
Dial up two third-down calls in a row where Jacoby hucks the ball downfield like he’s playing ultimate frisbee, and send the message loud and clear that if the Texans try to swarm and interrupt New England’s quick-passing game, Brissett has the arm to make them pay, and he’s not afraid to throw some rainbows if the play is there.
Two LeGarrette Blount touchdown runs and a Stephen Gostkowski 25-yard field goal later, including that beastly 41-yarder, New England had a 27-0 lead that they’d hang on to against the defending champs of the AFC South for the rest of the game.