Not all wins are created equal. Some are 40-0 routs of a bad football team, some are 25-22 squeaked out wins as both teams try to find themselves. They're not pretty either way depending on which side you're on. Fortunately for the Pats, they were on the right side of one, unfortunately for the Texans found themselves on the losing end of both.
It wasn't pretty. It fell out of the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. They did have some things to be proud of, but there was more negative than positives.
Everyone and their mother this week in the media were writing about how Belichick should be fired. Belichick is on his last legs. The Patriots, via de-facto GM Belichick, traded former DPOY Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers. The hitch is that he's still on the PUP list, nobody knows how truly healthy he is, and they only scored a 2023 late round pick for him. At age 31, the list of corners who played into their 30's and got better or maintained a high level of play isn't necessarily a long one. The only one who knows how truly healthy Gilmore is, is probably Gilmore himself, but having a 90% Gilmore is probably better than the alternatives. If one thing became a little more clear, it's that JC Jackson could be even farther ahead in line to get a contract extension. Having Gilmore only cause debate about how to pay both. So how did the JC Jackson led secondary fair? For the first few games, they did great. As for today, not so much. Rookie QB Davis Mills strolled onto the field and went to work. The Texans seemed to have the ball for the entire first half, eating away at the clock, with Mills hitting deep passes repeatedly. Chris Conley and Chris Moore did damage with deep passes, both with receptions of 40 and 67 respectively. But the key is that former Patriots speedster Brandin Cooks was held in check when Jackson guarded him. The Texans weren't exactly scaring anyone coming into the game. They were coming off getting steamrolled. If the secondary was thinking highly of themselves, or hurting cause their lead corner was sent away, this game should temper all of that.
Do...Do we have a pass rusher?
Like a real one? Matt Judon has been a blessing for the pass rush. Mostly because he actually gets there. Judon had 2 sacks today, which pushes his total to 6.5, which puts him right behind the leader in sacks in the entire NFL. Judon's 6.5 sacks is actually the most for an entire season since 2019 when Jamie Collins got to the QB a total of 7 times, and he's done it in 5 games. The amount of pressure Judon has been able to produce has been a blessing, especially since it has been critical to slowing some of the other teams down. The last Patriot to post double digit sacks was Chandler Jones in 2015, the next highest since then is 7.5 from Trey Flowers in 2018, Judon has the ability to give the Patriots it's first legitimate pass rusher since the aforementioned pass rushers. Judon adds a dynamic to the Pats defense that has been sorely missing for quite some time. Wherever Chase Winovich and his team leading 5.5 sacks last season is, they'll just have to watch and learn about consistent pressure.
No Mac Attack
Yes, Mac Jones was efficient again. His stat line reads 23/30 for 231 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. And if it wasn't for much loved N'Keal Harry playing excellent defense at WR, it would've been more than one interception. The Texans missed another couple passes that could've been picked as well, so Mac's efficiency was a little hidden with the missed opportunities. Jakobi Meyers sprung free running deep down the sideline, wide open, the ball was right to him. He legitimately could've scored as the Texans safety's momentum probably would've made it hard to change direction quickly. But Meyers dropped it. Other than that, the ball wasn't pushed down the field. Overall, 4 Patriots receivers had receptions that went over 20 yards. But the play calling is still more on the conservative side. It's not only the consistency to get open, it's the offensive line being able to block long enough to get them deep enough. Mac isn't Mahomes either. He's not slinging it 60 yards with a flick of the wrist. But this conservative play calling only hinders what the offense can do. Playing old school, hard nosed football is fine, but when it causes your team to come out flat for the entire first half of games, it's probably not the right answer for how to fix things.
Into the Depths
Remember when the Patriots had a deep running back stable? It was so deep that we could afford to cast off Sony Michel. Now? James White is done for the year. Damien Harris got hurt today, so it could limit him going forward. Enter Rhamondre Stevenson. The young rookie received a bunch of praise for his preseason, and he looked every bit of a steal in the draft. But did he today? He carried the ball 11 times for 23 yards (2.1 average), while Harris managed to have over a 4 yard average. Neither is exactly anything to write home about, but simple math says that 4 is better than 2. The Patriots didn't need to give Stevenson a full workload by the time Harris went down, they were also trailing for most of the game so running the ball isn't ideal. But the Patriots also play the Cowboys next, who have been harsh to runners and passers alike. So Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, and JJ Taylor better buckle up, cause if Harris can't go, they'll all be needed just to maintain their health.
This was an ugly win. But necessary. The Patriots needed this win. It would've been nice to see a 45-0 win and let the kid build confidence back there. But he led his first 4th quarter comeback win, he showed his poise once again and showed that he has a command of the offense.
The Patriots have a lot to learn from this game. But for now, we enjoy a much needed win.