Here’s an initial glance through what went into it as the visitors return home with a 2-3 record on the regular season.
Longest drive in 10 years for Houston
The first possession for the Texans’ offense marked the longest in 10 years. It spanned 18 plays, 79 yards and 10:06 of game clock. And it saw five third downs converted as well as a fourth down.
Davis Mills connected with tight end Antony Auclair for a touchdown from 11 yards out as the final paper cut to make it 6-0.
Houston’s rookie quarterback, drafted in the third round out of Stanford, would finish his meeting with New England’s defense 20-of-28 passing for 305 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He would do so on the heels of a 40-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.
Jones stands with 135 completions through five NFL starts
Mac Jones entered Sunday having completed 112 passes. The Alabama product under center for the Patriots would tack on 23 more from there. His 135 tie for most all-time by a rookie quarterback through five NFL starts, surpassing Justin Herbert’s 124 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Kyler Murray’s 126 with the Arizona Cardinals and matching Joe Burrow’s 135 with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jones did not have a ball hit the turf until after the first half’s two-minute drill as the chains were moved on four consecutive third downs.
No. 15 overall closed out the matinee with 231 yards through the air. There would be an interception by safety Lonnie Johnson. But there would also be a play-action touchdown pass to tight end Hunter Henry on third-and-6 to make it a 22-22 score.
An offensive line at 20 percent keeps its charge
With Isaiah Wynn and Mike Onwenu on the Covid-19 reserve list, Shaq Mason ruled out with an abdomen issue and Trent Brown moved to injured reserve with a calf issue, only 20 percent of the Week 1 starting offensive line remained for the Patriots.
Flanking center and captain David Andrews versus Houston was Justin Herron at left tackle, James Ferentz at left guard, Ted Karras at right guard and Yodny Cajuste at right tackle.
But New England’s makeshift group would concede two quarterback hits through two quarters and one sack to defensive end Jonathan Greenard through four quarters. It surfaced with six minutes to go in regulation. There was enough battery life.
Harris fights through fumble, injuries to rebound on the ground
New England’s running backs handled six carries for a loss of four yards one Sunday ago against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There would be a rebound on the ground in Houston.
Damien Harris rushed for 16 yards on six attempts on the initial drive, which concluded with a Wildcat touchdown behind lead blocker Jakob Johnson. But his plunge across the goal line on the Patriots’ next drive was punched out by Texans defensive back Terrance Mitchell for a fumble upon review.
Harris finished with 58 yards on 14 attempts. He would suffer a chest injury that left him questionable to return in the third quarter yet did so by the fourth. He’d then be helped off the field and into the locker room with a ribs injury. Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden stepped in behind the starting back. The rookie totaled 23 yards from scrimmage while the veteran totaled 31 yards from scrimmage. Fellow Patriots rusher J.J. Taylor went to the inactives list 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
Judon makes it four games in a row
The four-year contract worth $56 million has been illustrated in disruption. It was again Sunday.
Outside linebacker Matt Judon registered a fumble recovery on the last play of the game. He would also register two sacks in a span of three plays before halftime against the Texans. The back-to-back Pro Bowler with the Baltimore Ravens now stands with a sack in four straight games and 6.5 sacks in all to begin his Patriots tenure.
Chase Winovich led New England with 5.5 sacks last season. And Jamie Collins, who blitzed the A-gap for a sack in his third debut for the organization, led the way with seven the season prior.
Shaky afternoon for shorthanded secondary
The Patriots traded 2019 NFL defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore on Wednesday and downgraded fellow cornerback Jalen Mills to out on the eve of the Texans encounter. The March arrival from the Philadelphia Eagles had played 88 percent of the defensive snaps this fall before being limited in practice because of a hamstring injury.
In his absence, it would be Joejuan Williams making his first career start next to J.C. Jackson in a three-safety secondary. A long afternoon followed for both against Houston wide receivers that combined for 216 yards.
Chris Moore, a standard elevation from the practice squad, would retrieve a jump ball down the right sideline that became a 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter with Jackson the nearest defender. A familiar face in Brandin Cooks would draw defensive pass interference and holding against New England’s No. 1 corner. And Chris Conley would break free for 40 yards against off coverage from Williams on a fourth-and-2 before intermission. He’d do the same on a flea-flicker for a 37-yard score after it.
Folk true twice from 52 and in the final seconds
A Sunday after seeing a record-setting streak snapped from 56 yards out, Nick Folk began with a missed extra point against Houston. But New England’s kicker followed it up by making a pair of field goals from 52 yards away.
The latter of which transpired midway through the third quarter after the Texans’ Cameron Johnston had a trick punt rejected at the line that rolled out of bounds for a net of zero.
Folk added a 32-yard field goal and then had a 21-yard attempt sail through the uprights to give the Patriots a 25-22 lead. There were 15 seconds left to tick.