Mac Jones and the offense struggled to finish drives but capitalized when they most needed it; Jones hit Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game with 9:31 to play before Nick Folk’s game winner with under 15 seconds to play sealed the comeback for the Patriots.
The defense was gashed both on the ground and through the air in the first half, but bounced back and allowed just seven points and 113 yards in the second. They forced three three-and-outs and allowed the Patriots to regain momentum and the offense to get into rhythm. These types of games can be sort of a trap game even for a New England team that is 1-3 on the year, but it was still able to escape and get back into the win column before hosting a red-hot Dallas Cowboys team next week.
With that said, let’s get into the winners and losers from Sunday’s win.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
The rookie quarterback was on the money all game long completing 23 of his 30 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and interception. Jones opened the game completing his first nine passes, but the Patriots offense struggled at times; the unit was plagued from a drop by Jakobi Meyers as well as a fumble from Damien Harris just before he crossed the goal line.
Jones led two drives late in the fourth quarter — the first ending in a game-tying touchdown to Hunter Henry. He then followed it up with a game-winning drive to help set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal.
Even with four backup offensive linemen starting in front of him, Jones was given more time than he has had in the past and was able to stand in the pocket and help the Patriots move the ball efficiently. Say what you want about the team as a whole up to this point, but the quarterback position has been the least of its worries so far.
Loser: RB Damien Harris
Going into the game, it looked like it would be a Damien Harris breakout game facing a Texans front seven that ranked 26th in the league versus the run and was giving up over 140 yards per game on the ground.
After punching in the Patriots’ first score of the day from a yard out, Harris looked to have had another one which would have tied the game in the second quarter. However, he had the ball punched out before crossing the goal line, eliminating the touchdown and handing the ball back to the Texans. It was a huge momentum shift at the time as Houston went right down the field and made it a 10-point game before halftime.
Harris’ snaps were limited following the fumble and with James White out, the Patriots were desperately looking for consistency at the running back position. Harris, who also had to leave the game twice due to injury, has shown flashes of the ability to handle the heavy workload but has now cost the Patriots two big fumbles through the first five games.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon
It’s become automatic at this point putting Matthew Judon as a winner each week. The Patriots’ big-money free agent has produced week after week and picked up another two sacks on Sunday adding to his season total of 6.5. Judon also picked up four tackles, two of them being for loss, and sealed the game with a fumble recovery at the end.
Judon has not only been productive getting after the quarterback but has been a staple against the run making him the full package edge defender and something this Patriots defense has been looking for in the last few years.
Loser: CB Joejuan Williams
With Jalen Mills inactive due to a hamstring injury, it was a big opportunity for Williams to continue to carve out a role for himself in a crowded secondary. However, the 2019 second-round pick struggled on Sunday. He gave up a fourth down completion, was beat for a big touchdown to Chris Conley in the third quarter, and eventually was benched in favor of practice squad call-up Myles Bryant.
It’s been really tough to trust Williams as a depth cornerback as he’s consistently struggled when given the opportunity to receive an uptick in snaps. He will likely serve as a special teamer and a depth nickel back going forward assuming that Mills is back in action next week.
Winner: K Nick Folk
If you started Nick Folk in fantasy football this weekend, you are one happy person. Folk was able to keep the Patriots in the game down the stretch hitting two 50-plus yarders and all four of his field goal attempts — including the game-winner with only seconds to go.
With the Patriots offense still struggling to finish drives and put six on the board, Folk’s consistency from all areas of the field has helped keep the team in every game so far this season.
Winner: TE Hunter Henry
Hunter Henry followed up his big week with another strong outing on Sunday, leading all Patriots pass catchers with six receptions for 75 yards; he also hauled in his second touchdown in as many games. Henry’s 13-yard touchdown tied the game with just over nine minutes to play.
With a Patriots passing game that is looking to build week-after-week, Henry has been a go-to target and chain-mover for Mac Jones these last two weeks. The offseason addition has finally showed that his presence in the red area can help the Patriots offense — an area he was brought in to help the Patriots improve on.
Loser: S Devin McCourty
It’s not often we see the longtime Patriots captain end up on this list after a game but Sunday was a rough showing for the safety. McCourty was beat in coverage several times and wasn’t in an area to make plays all game long. The veteran took a bad angle and was late for safety help on the 67-yard touchdown early in the game. He also got beat on the Texans’ first fourth down conversion early on in the game.
McCourty has been a consistent performer for the last decade plus but Sunday wasn’t his best showing.
Loser: CB J.C. Jackson
J.C. Jackson has been solid and consistent ever since he's entered the league. However, a few days after the Patriots traded away their former CB1, Stephon Gilmore, Jackson had some struggles. He got beat on an out-route to the sidelines that led to a 67-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and got hit with two holding penalties, one when the Patriots should have gotten off the field on third down.
Everybody has bad games, and it is super uncharacteristic of Jackson. With a receiving core of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper coming to town next week, however, he will need to be on his A-game to help slow down a high-powered Cowboys offense.
Winner: DT Christian Barmore
The Patriots’ second-round draft pick out of Alabama has continued to make things happen in limited opportunities this year. Barmore, who is known for his pass rushing ability from the middle of the defensive line, drew two big holding penalties that negated big plays for the Texans late in the game. Barmore also chipped in two pressures and two tackles as he continues to carve out a role for himself moving forward.
The rookie has been a bright spot for the New England front seven both against the run and getting after the quarterback, and he should continue to see an uptick in snaps going forward.