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Patriots vs. Texans: Fan Notes from the AFC Divisional Round

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Ho hum. Another playoff victory. Another AFC Championship. Yawn. Wake me up when we get to Houston.

I tried as best I could to approach these Fan Notes as someone who is still appreciating the hell out of the 23 playoff wins this team has seen this decade. I didn't want to be one of those people who is worried about New England all of a sudden because I didn't find the manner in which they reached their 11th AFC Championship Game acceptable to me for whatever reason. I allowed myself a bit of pessimism here and there - have to stay true to yourself, after all - but when I learned that Tom Brady has started two full regular seasons worth of playoff games...I don't know. It's just getting harder and harder to be too negative. I thought I was just getting fatter in my old age, but maybe I'm getting softer as well.

  • It would be easy to point to Brady's numbers, and the offense in the first half in general, and talk about how poor their production was. But seeing as how they were only on the field for about eight seconds or so for the entire half, it's kind of tough to be too harsh.
  • You have to give Houston credit, though. Romeo Crennel drew up the exact game plan you need to execute if you want to beat a Brady-led offense. Lots of middle pressure, a few disguised blitzes, and enough different looks so that it took Tommy B way, way longer than it usually does to get comfortable. They flooded the underneath zones, which ended up forcing a lot of those deep throws that actually worked quite well, and by mixing up the positional groupings along the line, Brady had trouble calling out his blocking assignments. This isn't the #1 defense by accident.
  • I wonder how the gameday producer was able to fill the extra hour he had allotted for J.J. Watt sideline reaction shots when he found out that Watt would not in fact be making an appearance.
  • Anyone who has followed my writing, listened to our podcast, or watched out pregame previews knows that I am of the firm opinion that the Patriots are good for at least one absolute clunker of a game every season, when they come out rusty, can't quite get it together, and drop one to a team they have absolutely no business losing to. This season didn't really see that; I guess you could count the Week 4 Buffalo game, but those were some pretty extenuating circumstances. And so while I don't think that the Texans game is quite that kind of clunker, I'm going to allow it anyway.
  • I think the only thing worse than Brock Osweiler's play on Saturday is his first name.His stat line - 23 of 40 for 198 yards, a TD and 3 picks - is exactly how you can have such a great defense but still stumble to a 9-7 finish.
  • Seriously...does anyone here know a guy named Brock who isn't a complete douchebag? Or even know a guy named Brock at all, for that matter?
  • I also wonder what the statute of limitations is on Osweilier's signature win, an overtime regular season win over the Patriots. Every announcer I know seems to point to that game, which was won via the running game, as justification for why Osweiler is taking snaps and throwing interceptions.
  • To his credit, he dropped an absolute dime into Will Fuller's arms that he flat out dropped. I tried to spin it so Malcolm Butler did just enough to break up the play, but looking at the replay that's a catch a receiver 100% has to make.
  • Who knew that pulling a player out of a pile was a 15 yard penalty? Although honestly, based on the way Belichick reamed Eric Rowe out on the sidelines after that penalty kept a Houston drive alive, 15 yards probably seems kind of nice.
  • Are Texans fans grumbling about the officiating in this game? I feel like this is the kind of game where you'd get grumbling about the officiating.
  • How crazy is it that, when the Texans scored their first point of the day, a 40 yard FG, we could all say "wow...they're already doing better than last time, aren't they?"
  • I wonder what that FG made Texans fans feel...were they happy to be on the board? Did they even have time to be happy about that FG before Dion Lewis kicked their world in for the second time that quarter?
  • My answer to that question is, of course, the same amount of time we had to be happy about the Lewis TD before Michael Floyd saw what might end up being one of his last targets of the postseason.
  • I think the fact that the Patriots only had to run six plays to take a 14 point lead over Houston didn't do them any favors in terms of getting into a rhythm and establishing momentum. The problem is that complaining that the Patriots score points too quickly is kind of like complaining that the ice cream machine at the Sizzler is dispensing chocolaty goodness to fast.
  • I can't decide whether or not I hate Brian Cushing. I don't think he's anywhere near as good as he thinks he is, but I can't say I dislike his style of play. Very aggressive with excellent gap discipline. Still..he just seems like the kind of guy who would bring his girlfriend to poker night and then get mad at everyone for cracking a few dirty jokes.
  • I wrote in my Fan Notes a few weeks back that I'd like to see a deep fade route to Julian Edelman make its way out of the playbook. I didn't realize that I'd need to make the same request of a 5'8" running back.
  • Dion Lewis still gets my game ball, though; what an animal he was on Saturday, fumble and all. However, Chris Hogan may have made his case for the best offseason acquisition the Patriots made. Some of the adjustments he made to make what ended up being some huge catches makes me think that he absolutely tears up the dance floor at weddings.
  • Logan Ryan also might have played himself into a nice payday as well. Probably the best and most consistent player on the field yesterday, on either side of the ball.
  • Whatever it is that Bill Beliicheat, head cheat of the New Cheatland Cheatriots, does to cheat at halftime so the Patriots come into the third quarter with the necessary adjustments to perform better in the 2nd half should be the subject of the next multi-million dollar investigation. The drive that ended in a James White TD was adjustments and excellence personified. That was probably Brady's best throw of the night.
  • And speaking of good throws... depending on how much of a Brady apologist or hater you are, there are two ways to spin some of Tommy B's deep balls on Saturday: he either has such great chemistry with his receivers that he's able to put it where he knows they will eventually be, or he just hucked it up there off his back foot a handful of times and Edelman and Hogan bailed him out.
  • Once New England was up 24-13 and Houston running the ball was no longer a threat, they switched to more of a press man look and relied on a platoon of linebackers to patrol the middle, which allowed the corners to be more aggressive in their pursuits. The result was  Devin McCourty pick that, since the Texans couldn't score to save their lives, more or less put the game away.
  • I was also interested to see a base 4-3 as opposed to the usual nickel package that has more or less been their bread and butter all season. My guess is that the switch was geared towards containing Lamar Miller and forcing Osweiler to beat them with that Frankensteinian release of his that reminds me an awful lot of those old-timey banks my grandmother used to give me every birthday as she continued losing more and more of her marbles where you'd put the penny in some weird hatted guy's hand and he'd slap the coin into the slot.
  • About a third of the way through writing that last note I realized that this joke just wasn't working and it's way too much writing for very little payoff, but by the time I had fully processed that thought I was done writing the sentence. Sorry about that. If the Patriots are allowed to have a less than stellar game, then so am I.
  • Congratulations to Jadeveon Clowney for finally deciding to play football for a living. Looking forward to your consistency, longevity, and leadership for years to come.
  • If J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are both on the sidelines at the same time making a fiery speech, do they have enough cameras on your average gameday crew to cover it from enough angles? Something for the networks to thing about next season.
  • A Julian Edelman profanity caught by the sideline mics is a Patriots tradition that I hope continues for a very long time.
  • That Brady only threw two picks all season is even more remarkable after watching his third, which is the kind of thing that could happen to any QB at any time. Balls bounce around (heh).
  • The NFL should have a Purge Week, announced at 9AM on Sunday morning, where there are no personal fouls. Let the defenders blow off some steam.
  • Speaking of blowing off steam... it would appear that the Steelers have already started doing just that. Should be a pretty fun week.
  • So... is this the last we've heard of Phil Simms for the year? Please?

We're on to Pittsburgh. Buckle up.