The Patriots were flirting with rock bottom Sunday afternoon. Playing one of the worst team’s in the NFL, New England had almost nothing going for themselves in the first half. After turning the ball over four times last week, Davis Mills threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs. A Texans practice squad receiver recorded over 100 yards and a touchdown.
Could the Patriots have opened up Week 5 any worse? The offensive line was surprisingly the least of New England’s problems. Thankfully, New England came back from a 22-9 deficit with a strong 2nd half performance. The Patriots will take the win, but if last week was a moral victory, this week is a moral loss.
What Went Right?
Patriots 2nd Half Defense
The Texans Led New England 15-9 in the 1st half while extending their lead to 22-9 after a Mac Jones interception. The game seemed lost as the defense could not get Houston off the field. The Texans converted 3 fourth downs in the first half, further aggravating the Patriots. The defense then came alive when the team needed it most. Led by Matthew Judon, the defense recorded three second half sacks, allowing just 7 points on 113 yards. Although Houston’s offense is not a threatening one, that is how the defense needs to play.
Play Action Passing
Mac Jones continues to play his best off of play action. Jones went 9-for-11, with 11.6 yards per attempt and six first downs. This style of play supports Jones’ quick, short game passing while spreading the ball around. Look for Josh McDaniels to get this offensive attack to feature the play-action even more moving forward.
After a slow start for the highly paid tight ends, it’s beginning to come along. Henry has now had three straight games with at least four catches and 30 yards, while stringing together back-to-back games with a red-zone touchdown. That may not seem like a lot on paper, but Henry is making a strong impact on an offense that needs their tight ends and red-zone to produce. Henry tallied six catches for 75 yards and touchdown against Houston. That is what Bill Belichick paid for.
If it weren’t for Folk’s two 50+ yard field goals, the Patriots would most likely have lost this game.
Mac Jones’ 4th Quarter
Mac Jones’ day was not too pretty. Sunday marked Jones’ third straight week with an interception. He wasn’t pressured nearly as much, but Jones still had some dangerous throws. Nonetheless, the theme of this rookie continues to be his ability to bounce back. He may not have played his best ball yet, but when he makes mistakes, he answers.
After opening up the second half throwing an interception, causing the Texans to take a 22-9 lead, Jones led his team back. The Patriots finished the game with four straight scoring drives as Jones went 11-for-12 with 106 yards and a touchdown. Although he put the ball in harm’s way a couple of times against a bad team, he responded with consistent ball movement and a 13-point comeback.
Jones is not done improving as he has yet to throw for 300 yards or more than two scores. But in order to be a franchise quarterback in today’s NFL, you have to be able to lead your team down the field in the fourth quarter. Sunday was another test of Mac Jones and the moment and Jones continues to win that matchup.
What Went Wrong?
This week’s essentials list harped on winning the turnover battle. The Patriots gave up the ball twice while Houston only turned the ball over on a blocked punt. Another costly Damien Harris goal-line fumble and an almost fatal Mac Jones interception should have sealed New England’s fate. Against better teams, the Patriots can not expect to win turning the ball over like that.
While it is unknown whether or not Damien Harris will miss next week’s game with a rib injury, Bill Belichick cannot put Harris in the dog house. The team tried to do so and the running game was ineffective. Harris is the team’s best runner. Although he has fumbled in two crucial moments, the Patriots are simply not a good enough team to keep Harris on the bench.
Not a good look after letting go of Stephon Gilmore. J.C. Jackson struggled against a poor passing attack: two penalties, a fourth down conversion, and a touchdown. Although it’s hard to blame Jackson on the Chris Moore touchdown, he has to play a cleaner game. The secondary gave up 312 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, while only forcing eight incompletions. Remember, they gave this up to a guy who threw four interceptions last week. The Patriots also allowed an average of 24.5 yards per catch to Houston’s top two receivers, both were not named Brandin Cooks.
The Patriots should be relieved with the win and thankful they survived. However, the team needs to quickly move on from this one, it looked as though the Patriots were officially a bad football team. It is now on New England to prove that wrong.
The Patriots will play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, October 17th at 4:25 p.m.
(Photo by CASSIE STRICKER/Houston Texans)