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Patriots vs. Texans: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans

Houston Texans v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

And Patriots football is back!

Thanks to everyone who came out to Paddy’s of Park Slope yesterday to eat some meatballs and watch the Patriots defeat the Texans. While the bar was much more crowded than it has been in years past, it’s always a great time, and I’m looking forward to hydrating away the season with anyone and everyone who wants to stop by.

And a special thanks to the large number of Bills fans who stayed to watch their favorite team get absolutely slaughtered for 60 straight minutes. You are all a very special breed of person.

Today is known throughout the league as Overreaction Monday; the teams that looked good yesterday are surefire Super Bowl contenders, the teams that didn’t should just mail in the season and start looking towards the 2019 Draft, and the Cleveland Browns’ quest for an undefeated season is alive and well. I try not to fall victim to Overreation Monday - so let’s just call the first official Fan Notes of 2018 a hodgepodge of assumptions and poor takes.

  • I don’t know about any of you, but I couldn’t stop laughing at that image of Bill Belichick I used for the cover photo on this article. The best part is that was just as likely to have been taken after a touchdown as after a turnover or bad call.
  • You know it’s been a long offseason when you’re giddy as hell to see Tony Romo up there calling the games. The good news is that it’s still the regular season, so Romo won’t turn into a blithering idiot until early 2019. I still very much appreciate his insight and his ability to correctly predict the next play that’s coming.
  • Still not even close to used to Tommy B’s new helmet. But it hasn’t appeared to hampered his ability at all, so I guess I’ll just have to find a way to live with it.
  • I have absolutely no problem with a bunch of runs to start the game. This offense is going to be a work in progress for the first six weeks or so of the season, and testing a strong run defense early to help set up the pass later on is a viable strategy. Plus, if nothing else, it killed my yearly delusion of an entire Patriots season without seeing a single punt immediately.
  • Unless the strategy was to run it three times, punt it, and then immediately recover a fumble on Houston’s first offensive which case Belichick is an even bigger genius than I thought.
  • That TD pass to Gronk must have made the entire NFL hang its head and mutter an expletive. It was nothing but a straight go route into double coverage where Tommy B placed it directly onto the back shoulder. Brady looked Gronk down the whole time, and I do believe I heard him call out “Gronk back shoulder! Gronk back shoulder!” just before he called for the ball. There’s just absolutely nothing you can do about that play and I love it.
  • As for the rest of the offense...kind of a mixed bag. Pretty basic overall - committed to the run early in the half in hopes of opening it up via the playaction later in the game. Brady got solid protection, but receivers had trouble getting separation and it doesn’t look like that next level of improvising - aka the Edelman special - is apparent just yet. As expected, James White was a factor in the receiving game, with four catches on nine targets, and the usage of pre-snap motions helped to dictate what the play was. About a B day overall, I’d say.
  • That said...I wonder what to make of Chris Hogan’s involvement in the offense yesterday. One catch for 11 yards on five targets from the guy who has been there the longest and we were all kind of expecting to take over the WR1 duties in Edelman’s absence isn’t what I was expecting.
  • But since Philip Dorsett is now a monster, I guess there isn’t any reason to get too upset just yet.
  • And with his touchdown reception just before halftime yesterday, Dorsett is now the the 69th player to catch a touchdown pass from Tom Brady. So I’ll look forward to the upcoming Boston Globe article about the massive rift between Dorsett and Rob Gronkowski.
  • While he seems to be coming into his own as a receiver, my biggest issue with Philip Dorsett right now is that I don’t trust him as a blocker on swing passes and screens. Blocking receiver is a vital part of this offense and I don’t like the way Dorsett sets his feet and the angles he takes.
  • There’s no real deep threat at the moment, which means the Texans got to clog the middle of the zone and take away the crossing routes. Combine that with a strong defensive line, and it’s tough to move the ball, as evidenced by Brady’s 1st interception of the season. The ball was tipped at the line, of course, but a crowded middle of the field is exactly what causes balls to get batted.
  • Is it me...or did the NFL actually do a good job limiting the amount of commercial breaks yesterday? Did Roger Goodell do something right?
  • I feel sick now.
  • That James White TD was the most predictable thing ever. Maybe it’s just completely undefendable.
  • I had a very weird feeling as the first quarter came to a close. It was warm and fuzzy and relaxed. Then I realized I was already three beers deep and initially attributed it to that. But then I watched a little more of the game and realized that I wasn’t a complete wreck every time the defense took the field. I don’t want to overreact, because it wasn’t all positive - the 2nd half run defense was a huge issue, and you have to wonder how much of yesterday’s performance can be attributed to Desean Watson still shaking the rust off - but the Patriots did a great job setting the edge, the secondary had their men blanketed, gap discipline was maintained, and there wasn’t a single 30+ yard play through the air.
  • Would it be fair to call Tommy B’s day yesterday - 26 of 39 for 277 yards, 3 TDs, and a pick - somewhat pedestrian? He looked sharp for much of the game, but also made a few questionable throws yesterday, among them an attempt to a triple-covered Chris Hogan and a late read on a quick out from Gronk.
  • “Nobody runs two minute in I-formation.” - Tony Romo. The Patriots’ first two plays came from I-formation and then they marched down and scored. I love that guy.
  • I have absolutely no clue what happened in the last 30 seconds of the first half of this game. No way Gronk caught that. Burkhead fumbled it. Dorsett flying out of bounds. I felt like I was at my first ever middle school dance and trying to figure out where my hands were supposed to go the slow songs.
  • I do think that the booth should have been quicker to radio the challenge call down to the refs...but good for New England getting up to the line and snapping it before they had a chance to review. That score ultimately decided the game. And Houston had plenty of timeouts to use in order to give the refs more time. Clock management and situational football continues to plague the Texans.
  • My game ball for the game goes to Trent Brown, whose primary assignment was Jadeveon Clowney, held to just two tackles on the day. Brown seems like a classic talent who was misused in his old system, came to the Patriots, received the right coaching, and is going to flourish in this offense.
  • I realized I just completely jinxed any chance Brown has of staying healthy.
  • Speaking of healthy...I hope that they were just easing Marcus Canon back into the offense like a fat guy in a full hot tub as opposed to managing an injury. In relief duty, LaAdrian Waddle cost me my ability to say that JJ Watt has never sacked Tommy B once during his entire career. Now I have to say that Watt has sacked Tom Brady half of one time during his entire career, and that sucks.
  • The second half run defense was a bit concerning, especially after a strong first half showing. We’ll have to wait to see more game tape on them, so for now I’m going to go ahead and assume that the Patriots were deliberately giving up chunks between the tackles to keep the clock running and protect the lead.
  • If Jeremy Hill comes back this season, I’ll be blown away. Not a massive loss for the team, but still something you hate to see, and that it came from his own teammate trying to make a tackle on a fumble makes it that much worse. Thanks for a fun preseason, Jeremy.
  • The man who rolled up on Hill, James Develin, seems to have emerged as a legit receiving threat, hauling in four catches for 22 yards, including a huge first down conversion to keep the clock running. Credit where credit is due, and good for Develin for his ability to be that massive and still run routes...but I will say that when your fullback is a major part of your offense, you just might be thin on receiving options.
  • You also have to attribute it to Brady’s mastery of distributing the ball; Develin was one of eight Patriots who caught a pass from Brady yesterday.
  • I didn’t see as much of Cordarrelle Patterson as I thought I would. Since Week completely dictates how the rest of the season is going to go and absolutely nothing will change between now and January, it looks like Patterson is nothing more than a gadget receiver.
  • If I’m Bill O’Brian, I’m a little concerned about the lack of non-read option offensive playcalls.
  • Literally the second I wrote that Houston transitioned away from the read option, switched to the quick adjustment, and marched right down the field with Lamar Miller like there wasn’t even an opponent across the line of scrimmage. Sorry.
  • It’s plays like the Ryan Allen punt at the end of the game that separates the Patriots from the rest of the NFL. In what was a fairly subpar day for the kicking units, it’s situational football like that that allows the Patriots to thrive.
  • That Ryan Allen punt aside, though, kick coverage needs work. Houton got better field position than they should have, particularly with Ghost’s ability to land the ball right at the goal line almost every time. I might be reacting too harshly here given the new rules surrounding kickoffs, but I’m hoping that special teams will be a point of emphasis this week.
  • If I’m being honest, I think that a better offense would have given the Patriots all they could handle and more yesterday. That said, based on what I saw around the league yesterday, offense is sorely, sorely lacking.
  • Let’s go around the league for a minute to close things out. From Thursday night on, with a few obvious exceptions, it was a just a sloppy week chock full of very bad football, both on the field and off. A few high/lowlights for me:
  • So gad to see Ryan Fitzpatrick doing what he does best: lighting it up in reserve duty so he can land a huge contract somewhere else before he starts sucking again. How does he do that?
  • I have watched the hit that got Bengals safety Shawn Williams ejected at least 20 times now. That used to be called “finishing the play.” I understand that it now represents a late hit and a penalty...but an ejection? Wow. Maybe the Patriots should sign Neymar next year and design a whole formation around him flopping and rolling around on the turf grabbing his ankle to get rid of good defenders and pick up 165 yards.
  • James Connor just put Le’Veon Bell on watch and reminded me anew that you should never pay a buttload of money for a running back in this league.
  • Congratulations to the Cleveland Browns for their best start to a season since 2004. That was the most Cleveland way ever to snap a 17 game losing streak.
  • If the entire NFL decided to take a mulligan and start the season over again, I wouldn’t be too upset. I’m really, really hoping that Week 1 isn’t any indicator, because 90% of the games on TV yesterday were completely unwatchable.

Huge, huge early test next week, traveling to Jacksonville to take on one of the league’s best defenses, before another road trip to Detroit for a primetime game against the Lions. Great to start 1-0, but a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time.