The New England Patriots needed a win against the Houston Texans to hold onto the first seed in the AFC’s playoff race, but they came out flat: the offense played another disappointing game, while the defense was unable to come up with the crucial stops when they were needed. All in all, the world champions therefore fell in rather convincing fashion and with a final score of 28-22.
With that being said, let’s recap the action.
Patriots (10-2) 22 : 28 Texans (8-4)
After winning the coin toss, Jake Bailey sent the opening kickoff down the field for a touchback to set the Patriots up on defense. After just three plays that gained a grand total of zero yards, however, the unit was able to leave the field again. New England’s offense, meanwhile, started equally impressively: the unit drove 69 yards in 14 plays — primarily on the ground and with Sony Michel gaining 33 yards on six carries — before sending out Kai Forbath for a 23-yard field goal. [Patriots 3 : 0 Texans]
Houston was more productive on its second series, and moved the football well early on. But despite some initial momentum, the drive ultimately ended just like the first one: with Texas sending out its punt team to kick the football way. After a short kick and 6-yard return, the Patriots set up shop at their own 19-yard line. However, just three plays later the ball was back with the home team after Tom Brady threw an interception on third down intended for first-round rookie N’Keal Harry.
The Texans were able to quickly take advantage of the game’s first turnover: on the third play after the pick, Deshaun Watson connected with Duke Johnson on a short catch-and-run from 14 yards out to give Houston its first lead of the game. [Patriots 3 : 7 Texans]
New England opened the second quarter with a 13-yard run by Tom Brady to convert a 3rd and 7, but ultimately had to punt after a miscommunication between quarterback and rookie receiver Jakobi Meyers. Houston, on the other hand, was able to answer with an impressive series: the team marched 88 yards in 13 plays, capped by its second touchdown of the night — once again versus the Patriots’ linebackers in coverage. [Patriots 3 : 14 Texans]
Bill Belichick’s team, meanwhile, answered by moving the football well early on but ultimately again failing to string enough positive plays together to keep the series alive. Once more, Jake Bailey had to come out to punt the football away. Luckily for the Patriots, the defense had another good series and forced a quick punt to give Brady and company another shot with 1:12 remaining in the second quarter.
The Patriots started the drive well with a 16-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers, but were again unable to add any significant plays afterwards: the wide receivers had a tough time getting open against the Texans’ defensive backs, and New England ultimately decided to punt on 4th and 10 from the Houston 39-yard line to essentially end the half.
New England started the second half with the football, but was unable to do much with it. While an interception on the second play of the drive was negated by a defensive penalty, the Patriots eventually had to give the football up without a score: Tom Brady was sacked by a corner blitz on 3rd and 6. Houston’s offense, however, did not fare much better on its next drive and went three-and-out.
Despite starting at its own 7-yard line, the Patriots offense finally got into some rhythm on its next possession — in large part due to a 32-yard run by James White. Again, however, New England came up empty: Brady was unable to connect with Mohamed Sanu on a 4th and 1 attempt on Houston’s side of the field, with the in-season acquisition dropping the ball to turn the football over on downs.
As was the case with the first turnover of the game, the Texans were again able to capitalize: the team drove 58 yards in just six plays, capped by its third touchdown of the day to increase New England’s deficit to 18 points. [Patriots 3 : 21 Texans]
The Patriots’ next possession appeared to be doomed before it even began: not only was starting center Ted Karras lost for the remainder of the game with a knee injury, the team also faced a 1st and 30 after committing three offensive penalties in a five-play span. However, a long pass to Julian Edelman helped get the unit started and it ultimately ended up driving 75 yards in 12 plays — the final 12 of which on a touchdown pass from Brady to James White. Recently signed Kai Forbath, however, missed the extra point. [Patriots 9 : 21 Texans]
The Momentum did not stay with the Patriots for long, as the Texans quickly marched down the field to add to their lead again: with a conversion on 3rd and 6 on a pass from Deshaun Watson to DeAndre Hopkins as the biggest play of the series, the home team was able to march 75 yards in nine plays. Hopkins and Watson connected again on a 6-yard touchdown that saw a handoff to the wide receiver and a pitch back to the quarterback, who ran it in for the score. [Patriots 9 : 28 Texans]
Down 19 with almost 10 minutes left on the clock, the Patriots did not exactly go into their hurry-up mode but instead tried to methodically drive down the field. While this approach helped them reach the Houston red zone for the second straight series, it also took considerable time off the clock before Brady connected with James White from 11 yards out. The two-point try, however, fell incomplete. [Patriots 15 : 28 Texans]
Down two touchdowns, the Patriots went for an onside kick but were unable to recover it. While the defense forced a quick stop afterwards and the Texans punted the ball back to New England, the offense had only 2:36 and out of timeouts to operate with. Tom Brady led his team to another touchdown — a 20-yard pass to Julian Edelman — to come within six points of tying the contest, but it was too little too late. [Patriots 22 : 28 Texans]
New England attempted another onside kick afterwards, but it sailed out of bounds. Meanwhile, the team fell to 10-2 on the year and from the number one playoff seed in the AFC.