There’s no sense in sugarcoating it too much: Sunday night’s loss to the Houston Texans hurt this team. They no longer control the #1 seed in the AFC, their offensive issues were on display for the entire country, and there were a few times when the Texans straight up made the defense look foolish. As far as losses go, it’s not the kind that sticks with you, but should the Patriots find themselves among the 31 other teams that don’t win the Super Bowl this year, the end result of this one might be a reason why.
But that’s OK. All is not lost. 15-1 is an absolutely insane record for any team, especially a flawed one, and at the end of the day it could be a lot worse. Here are five positives we can take away from the Texans game.
Still in good shape. Yes, the Patriots no longer hold the 1 seed. And yes, if things stay the same for the rest of the year, there’s a chance they’ll have to travel to Baltimore again to face the Ravens for the right to go to the Super Bowl. However, not only is that a long way off with a lot of football left to play, but the Patriots are still extremely well positioned to get at least the 2 seed. Homefield advantage is great, but a first round playoff bye is significantly more important, and the way the rest of the schedule looks, anything less than the 2 seed would be a real surprise.
No more prime time games. This might not be a positive for some of you, but I’m always thrilled when New England plays their last primetime game of the regular season. They always get the maximum allotted number, which means that five times a season I’m up until midnight writing articles and coming down off the hype. Very much looking forward to the last three weeks of the season, where the games all start at 1PM or 4PM and I can get back to my regular routine.
Illness. As I mentioned in my Fan Notes, the flu epidemic that swept through the New England locker room this past week isn’t an excuse, nor is it the reason they lost. But when you list 17 as questionable, most with an illness, there’s just no way you can’t factor that in. Few things knock you on your rear end like the flu, and that there were players even able to suit up at all on Sunday night is a small miracle in and of itself. I can’t imagine half the team will have the flu at the same time again going forward.
Running game coming along. The running game was a big positive on Sunday night - 145 total yards with a 5.0 YPC average. New England became a running team around this time last year as well, and it worked it just fine for them if I remember correctly. There’s obviously a lot that needs fixing when it comes to the offense, but if the running game can keep trending up, that will really open everything else up and make it a lot easier to simply the receiving routes and get everyone where they need to be.
Texans were due. In the entire history of the franchise, the Texans had only beaten the Patriots once before last night - a 2009 Week 17 win in which the Patriots had already locked in the #3 seed and didn’t have anything to play for. Every team beats every other team once in a while, and the Texans were due to take one. Not only that, but they deserved to win, so there’s not really much else to do there but tip the cap. If the actual Patriots can’t win, it’s nice that the largest collection of former Patriots in the league can.