The Houston Texans defense deserves praise for their performance against the New England Patriots. They forced two interceptions from a typically careful Tom Brady in what appeared to be a replay of the Patriots 2010 playoff game against the New York Jets and generally eliminated most plays in the middle of the field for most of the game.
It’s no coincidence that Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was the Patriots de facto offensive coordinator in 2010 against the Jets. O’Brien knows how to affect Brady and get him off his mark.
“I had the fortune of coaching him,” O’Brien said about Brady. “I know what he is all about. And you know, that was part of our game plan, is to get in there and try to affect him with the rush. I thought our guys did a great job of that, you know. But in the end, you know, a kickoff return for a touchdown, short field on turnovers, it’s just tough to play defense against the Patriots like that.”
The Texans wanted to play tight man coverage with their secondary and linebackers, and generate a lot of pressure with just three or four players up the middle (“They were dropping everyone,” WR Julian Edelman said after the game). They just wanted to hit and hit and hit Brady all game long.
“That was one of our main goals to put pressure on him and keep him off balance,” Texans LB Brian Cushing admit after the game.
“That was the game plan going in, to try and hit him [Brady] as much as possible,” Texans DL Christian Covington said. “At the end of the day it didn’t really count for anything. So, it is what it is.”
The Patriots weren’t surprised by anything the Texans did, with Brady pointing out the Texans used the same strategy from last year.
“I think we were prepared for it,” Brady said. “We just didn’t do a great job executing.”
New England was unable to stop the Houston game plan, despite seeing how the Texans wanted to generate pressure up the middle. The Texans defenders were just too talented for the Patriots interior linemen to handle on a regular basis and that’s the type of talent that reaches the postseason- but fortunately for New England, very few teams boast the defensive strength of the Houston Texans.
The Patriots are aware that other teams are going to go to the film to see how the Texans were able to fluster the Patriots offense (who, let’s be serious, still scored 27 points). Brady “threw up a couple of prayers,” according to head coach Bill Belichick, and fortunately the Patriots came down with them and were able to overcome the boneheaded turnovers.
“We just didn’t do enough in any area, but they’ve got a good defense. They’re ranked the first-ranked defense and I thought they did a good job,” Brady credited the Texans. “I think we’ve just got to learn from it. I think this team did a great job playing against us. They had some good scheme stuff that worked. They have good rushers and they had some good guys in coverage, so they had a pretty good scheme.”
While no remaining playoff team has the top-to-bottom talent that the Texans have on defense, the Kansas City Chiefs are fully capable of executing a similar game plan. The Patriots are going to have to button up their issues out of the bye week and execute at a higher level to win against whatever opponent they face next week.