While the New England Patriots had plenty of momentum on heading into Week 11 after back-to-back wins, they played another lackluster game and were beaten by the Houston Texans. It was a disappointing performance across the board, and one that could very well have shut the door on the Patriots’ playoff hopes.
Patriots (4-6) 20 : 27 Texans (3-7)
For the eighth time this season, the Patriots won the opening coin toss to begin a game on defense. While the unit did surrender one first down to Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense, it was able to get off the field just three plays later when Houston’s touchdown failed to connect with Duke Johnson on a 3rd-and-3 pass attempt.
New England’s offense started the game equally strong. Back-to-back plays to James White (34 yards) and Damiere Byrd (17 yards) quickly helped the team reach the Texans red zone, with Cam Newton and company eventually taking a 7-0 lead: on 2nd-and-goal from the Houston 9-yard line, Damien Harris was able to get around the corner and untouched into the end zone — capping a 10-play, 84-yard series in style.
The ensuing extra point was good as well to put the Patriots up 7-0 on the road. [Patriots 7 : 0 Texans]
Houston answered New England’s touchdown with one of its own. Despite the secondary playing some good coverage throughout the series, Deshaun Watson threw some pin-point passes that helped his team move down the field in a hurry — including a 44-yarder to Brandin Cooks as well as a 3-yard touchdown to Randall Cobb. All in all, the home team marched 73 yards in just six plays to tie the game. [Patriots 7 : 7 Texans]
After an impressive first series, the Patriots offense took a step back on the second. While the unit did gain a first down courtesy of Damien Harris’ running, it eventually had to leave the field again after three straight passes gained a combined -2 yards.
Luckily for the team, its defense bounced back nicely after giving up a touchdown on the previous drive: it allowed one first down before getting off the field again.
The quick punt was followed by another scoring drive for the Patriots. The team drove 45 yards in 10 plays, including a double pass from Rex Burkhead to Cam Newton to Jakobi Meyers that covered 20 yards. Ultimately, however, New England had to settle for a 45-yard Nick Folk field goal. The kick was good, and the team in front again. [Patriots 10 : 7 Texans]
The Texans, meanwhile, replied with their second touchdown drive — one that again saw Deshaun Watson throw some perfect passes to beat the Patriots’ otherwise tight coverage. Houston’s quarterback took it upon himself to reach the end zone: he scrambled from four yards out to cap an eight-play, 75-yard possession. [Patriots 10 : 14 Texans]
With under four minutes to go in the first half, the Patriots had a chance to take a lead before intermission. Instead, however, they went three-and-out on an incomplete pass that was followed by James White gaining just three combined runs on a short carry and a short reception. As a result, Houston was in a position to add to its lead late in the second period.
The Texans did just that by driving 80 yards in nine plays in just over two minutes. With New England’s front seven struggling to contain Deshaun Watson, and the secondary unable to hold down the wide receivers and tight ends long enough, Houston scored its third touchdown to take an 11-point lead into the half. [Patriots 10 : 21 Texans]
After ending the first half in disappointing fashion, the second did not start any better for the Patriots: they went three-and-out and along the way lost Rex Burkhead to a serious-looking knee injury. Luckily for them, their defense was able to get the football back rather quickly by forcing a three-and-out of its own.
New England finally found some offensive groove on its next possession. While the unit did start slowly and was in danger of going three-and-out again, Cam Newton and Damiere Byrd salvaged the drive: not only did they convert a 3rd-and-10 via a 30-yard hookup, they also connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass:
With Nick Folk’s extra point kick also good, New England was down only four points halfway through the third period. [Patriots 17 : 21 Texans]
While the Patriots did have some momentum at that point, the Texans came right back with another scoring drive. While the series did reach the red area fairly quickly, however, it eventually ended with just three points: New England’s defense held on third down, and Houston had to attempt its first field goal of the day from 36 yards out. Ka’imi Fairbairn was good, and his team up seven points again. [Patriots 17 : 24 Texans]
The Patriots’ next drive again saw the passing game move the football quite efficiently. First, Cam Newton connected with practice squad elevatee Donte Moncrief to convert a 2nd-and-12 on a 15-yard pass; later, he hit Byrd for 19 more to move the chains on 2nd-and-13.
With the Newton-Byrd connection continuing to work well, the Patriots methodically moved the ball down the field to start the fourth period. However, they eventually hit a wall in the red zone: after Newton was sacked on first down for a loss of nine yards, a short run by James White and a short pass to Jakobi Meyers were not enough to move the chains. As a result, Nick Folk had to come onto the field for a 36-yard field goal. [Patriots 20 : 24 Texans]
With the fourth quarter halfway over after Folk’s field goal, New England needed a stop from its defense to give the offense another chance. While the unit did deliver by holding the Texans to three points, it still allowed Deshaun Watson and company to burn considerable clock and eventually make it a seven-point game again. [Patriots 20 : 27 Texans]
The Patriots needed a touchdown with not just the game but possibly their season as well on the line. They opened the drive slowly, and quickly found themselves in a 3rd-and-10 situation — one that was converted on a 14-yard pass from Newton to Meyers. While the play kept the series alive it did not end with a game-tying touchdown but rather a turnover on downs: Newton was pressured on 4th-and-4 and threw incomplete.
The Texans subsequently ran down the clock to 9 seconds, which was not enough time for a New England miracle. While Cam Newton’s Hail Mary pass was caught by tight end Ryan Izzo, he was stopped 12 yards short of the end zone.