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Patriots vs. Texans: Fan Notes from the Preseason

Notes, musings, and observations from Week 2 of the preseason.

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots and the Patriots South wrapped up their week of joint practices with Saturday night’s preseason matchup at Reliant Stadium, site of Super Bowl LI. And while the game was neither as exciting as the last time the Patriots were there nor was the outcome what we like to see, there are definitely some things we can glean from the 27-23 loss. Sadly, a lot of those things are ways in which I should probably make some life changes, as I paid a little too close attention to this one and didn’t realize what I was doing until it’s too late. But as anyone who has been following my writing knows, I’m well past the point of no return by now.

  • I wasn’t able to watch this game until 1PM yesterday, as for some inexplicable reason the NFL doesn’t want to include all preseason games with their exorbitantly expensive Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV. Subscribers lost extra coverage with Thursday Night Football, online streaming, and international broadcasts, but are still paying the same amount for less games. Makes zero sense.
  • Although I guess I can’t be too surprised; the league also charges full price for tickets to these glorified practices. The fact that Patriots fans have to shell out normal cost for weeks one and four of the preseason, games during which the starters rarely play, is absurd. Then again, it’s the least surprising news of the year - the NFL is all about the money and nothing else.
  • OK, rant over. On to the game.
  • One of the things I was excited to see was what the Patriots would do with their depleted defensive line in terms of rotations and who lined up where. New England’s front four to start this game was, from left to right, Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Malcom Brown. and Harvey Langi on the edge as that linebacker/lineman hybrid. Alan Branch and Kyle Van Noy saw time as well, while Elandon Roberts and Shea McLellin got the nod at LB.
  • It’s that kind of hard-hitting analysis - looking at the players on the field and listing them - is why they keep me around here at Pats Pulpit.
  • Plus, Ealy and Guy were also out there late in the game as well – so who the hell knows.
  • There’s no sense in breaking down schemes and the lack of effective reads in the preseason, especially against a team the Patriots play for real in just over a month, but one thing I can definitely comment on is poor tackling. Tackling isn’t something you do different from game to game, regardless of importance, and I lost count of how many times a Texan player got wrapped up, only to break free for extra yardage.
  • I can’t believe we had a Gronk sighting to start the game. What I can believe, however, is Cam Fleming getting worked around on the edge. I really, really hope Nate Solder is going to be ok this season.
  • I wonder what was going through Ryan Griffin’s mind when he was nine years old and Family Guy debuted on Fox. I bet it was fun at first, having almost the same name as an alcoholic cartoon dog…but it probably got old very fast.
  • There are just some last names out there that are fine to have for the first few years of your life, and then once you hit adulthood and we all have to behave ourselves it’s OK again, but for about 20 straight years you’re just going to have to deal with idiots like me. Last names like Butt. Hung. Sharts. Wang. I could go all day...but I’m in my 30s. This kind of behavior simply can’t stand.
  • I think that Harvey Langi has the physical tools and ability, to be a positive contributor to this defense – I just wonder about his size, especially if he’s going to carve out a spot along the edge. Looking at Langi out there with the other guys along the line reminded me a lot of the couch scene from Me, Myself, and Irene.
  • The NFL Network somehow went from Houston’s first scoring drive to an interception replay review on what I think was a pass intended for Chris Hogan. Not sure how much of the game they glossed over, but I’m sure it was nonstop action the whole way. That said, it looked like a pick to me.
  • I know there are some people who think that celebrating in the preseason is embarrassing and teams should realize that these games don’t matter. As for me, I love it. I think it’s great to have that kind of passion, and teams that use the Patriots to really put themselves to the test shows both their own commitment to winning and the amount of respect the Pats garner around the league.
  • That said, based on absolutely nothing other than watching him playing and hearing what comes out of his mouth when he’s mic’d up, I feel like Brian Cushing is the kind of guy who flexes his muscles and winks at himself in the mirror every time he flushes the toilet.
  • Really liked what I saw out of Rex Burkhead. The Patriots ran him a lot early, mostly on both sides of center David Andrews, and he almost always fell forward and got very low at the point of contact. He also seems to understand space in the zone when running passing routes and knows how to read the DB on an option.
  • Absolutely nobody on the planet is going to be able to convince me that the new Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World isn’t Michael Phelps with a beard.
  • I’m no expert…but it would appear that Houston Texans fans seem to prefer DeShaun Watson over Tom Savage.
  • I’m a huge sucker for great off-field stories, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than Texans lineman’s David Quessenberry’s. I won’t be able to do it justice here, but his three-year road back to the NFL, a road lined with sickness, weight loss, and chemotherapy, is one worth checking out. Welcome back, big man.
  • It’s rare that I get to see a Patriots preseason game called by the opposing team’s announcer duo. Yesterday’s replay made me realize that each franchise’s preseason commentary squad has two main jobs: call the game, and spin everything we see on the field into a real positive for their teams no matter what. I initially thought it was just Dan Roche and Christian Fauria turning blown assignments and backup QB overthrows into “real-game intensity” and “solid vision against the first-team defense,” but I guess not.
  • Dion Lewis once again seeing significant reps with the backups. I sure hope nobody overreacts about that…
  • Why the hell would the Patriots decline a Pass Interference on 2nd and 15 to set up a 3rd and 15? If it was any other coach in the league, I’d say that it was an officiating error and a miscall…but knowing Belichick, he saw a prime opportunity to try out some 3rd and long plays.
  • Even in a fauxball game like the preseason, the difference in pacing and quality between the 2nd half and the first is startling. The 1st half went as smoothly as you’d expect a preseason matchup to go, but that second half was like watching the Frodo and Sam scenes in any of the Lord of the Rings movies.
  • And of course, I watched every minute of it, inside on an absolutely gorgeous August Saturday. I really need help.
  • Of course, it didn’t aid matters any that once again the NFL Network cut from he Patriots punting as their first possession of the 3rd quarter fizzled out to the Patriots kicking off after somehow scoring another field goal. I don’t mind condensing the game a bit…but at least show scoring drives. Or maybe give us a quick recap?
  • All signs point to Elandon Roberts being OK after getting carted off the field with a rib injury, which is fantastic. To lose a potential starter in a preseason game after the defense gives up a big play in which the defenders looked like the rhinos in that old Disney Robin Hood movie would have been a real double whammy.
  • I haven’t gone back to watch any replays, but on first glance it seems that that strip sack on Jimmy G was on Garoppolo. That’s the kind of read you need to make and make the adjustment on the line to keep the tight end home to pick that blitz up. Garoppolo was looking to the left side of the field, so O’Shaughnessy wasn’t the primary read anyway.
  • That INT was pretty inexcusable as well. I think he was trying to throw it out of bounds – that’s one play where you should NEVER concede a pick.
  • That the Patriots were able to beat the Texans last year with Jacoby Brissett might be on the Mount Rushmore of Bill Belichick coaching achievements. They took an athletic, raw rookie with a strong yet highly inaccurate arm and were able to get the W against one of the best defenses in the league. Little Brissett has done this season has done much to silence the “Patriots will keep two quarterbacks” contingency.

I can’t help but notice a preseason trend of the Patriots trailing late, Brissett driving them down the field, and then Mark Sanchezing it with goal to go to lose the game. Luckily for me, we all have the Golden Rule of Preseason: if my team looks great, it’s a surefire sign of things to come once the games start to matter. If my team looks terrible, there’s nothing to worry about; after all, it’s only preseason.