Patriots defense did everything to win the game
QB Tom Brady threw a pair of interceptions that set up Texans drives at the Patriots 27- and 34-yard lines. Those are both drives already in field goal range and the defense held the Texans to field goals- that’s as much as you can ask from a defense. RB Dion Lewis fumbled a kick return at the 12-yard line that the Texans converted into a touchdown.
That’s 13 of the Texans 16 points that came off of turnovers in incredible field position.
CB Eric Rowe needs to keep his cool
But one of the biggest bonehead plays came from CB Eric Rowe. The Patriots defense had forced a three-and-out early in the game, but Rowe was flagged for Unsportsmanlike Conduct after he was caught pulling a Texans player out of the pile. That gave the Texans a free 15 yards and an automatic first down. The Texans converted this drive into their other 3 points on the day.
CB Logan Ryan was the star of the game
There was some deserved criticism of Logan Ryan for his weak play early in the season, but he’s been a key reason for the defense’s emergence over the second half of the year. Ryan had an excellent game with 7 tackles, a sack, an interception, and 2 additional passes defended, with a few other stops on third down.
The Patriots trio of Rutgers defensive backs- Ryan, FS Devin McCourty, FS Duron Harmon- all recorded interceptions.
The offense never got into a rhythm
The Patriots rushing attack never materialized, while QB Tom Brady completed just 18 of his 38 attempts (47.4%). It seemed like New England didn’t know how it wanted to approach the Texans defense, and never settled into a strategy. Brady was chucking deep passes that WR Julian Edelman and WR Chris Hogan were able to collect on a somewhat regular basis, but the offense had just five drives of 6+ plays- a sign of an irregular Patriots offensive attack.
WR Julian Edelman had himself a day
The Patriots have asked Edelman to step up as Brady’s #1 receiver over the second half of the season and the receiver has produced every single week. Edelman collected 8 receptions for 137 yards and added another 12 yards on a run. With WR Chris Hogan (4 receptions, 95 yards) dealing with a thigh issue and TE Martellus Bennett affected by a hyper-extended knee, Edelman’s performance will be even more important next week.
RB Dion Lewis had a day to remember
Lewis was the first player in the Super Bowl era to record a receiving touchdown, a rushing touchdown, and a return touchdown in a playoff game. His 41 rushing yards led the team, while his 2 receptions for 23 yards both ranked third behind Edelman and Hogan. His kick return was the Patriots first for a score since Devin McCourty in 2012.
But Lewis also fumbled the ball on a kick return that led to the Texans only touchdown of the day, and then fumbled again just outside the Texans red zone with 7:37 left in the game. He’ll need to show better ball security for the rest of the postseason.