Every year there is a Patriots game that reveals the character of the team and whether or not they’re able to compete for the Super Bowl. It could be a “moral victory” like the 2014 Patriots had on the road against the Green Bay Packers, or your pick of collapses at the 2-4 end of the 2015 season due to the mounting injuries, or even the week 1 upset win over the Cardinals to start the 2016 season.
These games showed whether or not the Patriots had the collective ability to overcome obstacles and to show their resolve. We might have just seen this year’s game on Sunday against the Texans.
Now I hope I’m not giving too much credit to the Patriots come-from-behind victory against the Texans, but the offense put together a last-gasp drive for the ages and the defense did barely enough to hold on to victory.
“It definitely builds the team together. Playing 60 minutes of football – offensive side, defensive side, we all came together,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said after the game. “Everyone contributed. Everyone came together and it just shows team unity once you get a win like that and everyone contributes the way everyone did.”
The offense finally got the drive it needed after a pair of three-and-outs in the fourth quarter, and the defense had both a clean stop of the Texans offense and held strong on a 3rd-and-1 to give the offense one last chance to win the game.
“I thought that was a true game where everything didn’t go right for us as a team, but we just kept fighting,” safety Devin McCourty said. “I think, after the Kansas City game where we kind of all felt like we didn’t do that, it was big to be a part of today where guys just kept fighting and kept playing and just let it be what it was going to be. But, your effort wasn’t going to be the reason why we didn’t finish and get a win.”
And while the Chiefs kicked their performance up a gear late against the Patriots, the Texans weren’t able to find that same level on New England’s final drive.
“It was very tough, you don’t want to lose a game like that, you’ve got to play all four quarters, and we didn’t finish,” Texans defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney said after the game. “We thought we had them on the ropes, but we didn’t finish. Hats off to the Patriots; they beat us.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick apparently warned his team that they would need to play until the final whistle of the game and the team was prepared.
“We talked about it being a four-quarter game and that’s what it came down to,” wide receiver Chris Hogan said. “It came down to the last possession.”
After the Patriots defense was unable to close against the Kansas City Chiefs, and after the offense stalled in the second half against the New Orleans Saints (they only scored 6 second half points!) , Belichick wanted to see a full 60 minute game from his team to reveal whether they would be able to compete as a whole team.
“The players went the whole 60 minutes, played hard, competed well and made enough plays at the end,” Belichick said after the game. “Just barely, but made enough plays at the end to win. “
“Of course you’d like to play better so it doesn’t come down to the final play,” Belichick continued, “but look, this is the National Football League and the Texans are an outstanding team and that’s what it’s going to take to beat them, is to play 60 minutes and be able to make the plays that you’ve got to make at the end to win.”
“I thought we battled for 60 minutes,” Belichick added. “It took all of it, all the way down to the last three seconds on the final play. The competitiveness of the team was evident. From a conditioning standpoint, we were able to compete for 60 minutes on a warm day.”
The Patriots will get another chance to play a full 60 minutes against an injured Carolina Panthers team in week 4 and hopefully the defense will be able to match the quality performance of the offense for the entire game.