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Game Observations: Patriots can't find their stride vs. Texans

The Patriots scored the first three points of the game then saw the Texans score 21 unanswered points en route to a 28-22 Houston victory that handed New England their second loss of the season and knocked them from the top seed in the AFC.


The Patriots scored the first three points of the game then saw the Texans score 21 unanswered points en route to a 28-22 Houston victory that handed New England their second loss of the season and knocked them from the top seed in the AFC.

It was a lackluster effort for the Patriots who usually have their best football for the month of December. Tom Brady and the offense continued to struggle to find any kind of offensive consistency, as once again it was Julian Edelman or bust in the key moments. Limited contributions from the other weapons were sporadic at best and not enough to overcome the Texans defense, even with James White breaking out of a slump late in the game.

Houston effectively attacked the Patriots defense down the field, finding more success in the passing game than most teams have had this season. Deshaun Watson was able to buy enough time with his feet to negate the Patriots blitzes and had the downfield accuracy to keep moving the ball. After allowing just four passing touchdowns all season, the Patriots defense gave up four in this game.

With three quarters of the season now in the books, the Patriots are no closer to knowing who they are than when things got started in September. This game was just further proof of the offense's reliance on the defense and special teams to help them produce points. They got no such help in this game and put together just two meaningful scoring drives before a late rally when the game was mostly decided.

Now, with the Chiefs coming to town next Sunday, time is quickly running out for the 2019 Patriots to find their game and make some noise in the playoffs.

Here's everything else that stood out during the dominant Texans win.

-The defense delivered a three-and-out on the opening possession by the Texans and the offense strung together a nice drive, going 14 plays and making it all the way down to the five-yard-line. But once again they stalled in the red zone with Brady missing Phillip Dorsett on third down. Luckily, Kai Forbath made the 23-yard field goal, his first attempt as a Patriot, to give New England the early 3-0 lead. It was the first time since Week 7 that they scored points on their opening drive.

-Sony Michel had 33 rushing yards on the first drive, while Julian Edelman grabbed two third-down conversions. Michel's early success was nice, but the reliance on Edelman and the red zone stall out were all too common this season and the game took a bad turn after that.

-Tom Brady threw an interception on third down late in the first quarter on the Patriots second possession, targeting N'Keal Harry, and it set the tone for the rest of the first half. Houston would turn it into a touchdown three plays later, with Duke Johnson beating Kyle Van Noy in coverage for the 14-yard score. After a promising start by both sides of the ball, the game quickly swing back into Houston's favor, despite the Texans taking three penalties in the early going.

-Brady's frustration was visible early in the game, especially on a third-down play in the second quarter where he appeared to want Jakobi Meyers to turn his route upfield but the ball fell incomplete. Brady was also forced to run on a previous third down earlier in the drive as the offense continued to look stagnant in the first half and cameras caught Brady letting his receivers have it on the sideline.

-The Texans would put together an excellent drive in the second quarter that went 13 plays, 88 yards, ending with a 13-yard touchdown pass that extended the lead to 14-3. There were missed tackles on the drive and a big missed sack by John Simon that Watson somehow escaped from. Houston had a focus on targeting the matchups underneath against the linebackers with a plan that looked a lot like the Ravens'. It was as well-executed a drive as the Patriots defense has seen all season and was the second-longest touchdown-scoring drive they've allowed in 2019, the Eagles had a 90-yard one.

-The Patriots defense would force a three-and-out before the half, giving the sputtering Patriots offense one more crack at it, but it would take seven plays to go 30 yards and they'd end up punting from the Houston 39-yard-line. For those expecting this to be a breakout game for the Patriots offense, the first half was anything but.

-Marshall Newhouse replaced Marcus Cannon to start the second half but it didn't make much difference as the offense would end up punting after Brady took a well-schemed sack. Cannon was still dealing with a sickness that hit him before the Cowboys game and would return to the game. It was surprising not to see the offense at least attempt some no huddle to get something going.

-The offense finally grinded out some plays with a third-down conversion to Mohamed Sanu followed by a 32-yard run by James White, the longest run for the team all season and a career-long for White. White had been quiet for a few games and it was a much-needed spark, but the drive would fail to catch fire, as Sanu dropped a fourth-down pass from Brady. As has been the case for much of this season, the offense couldn't string anything together. White's run was one of the lone offensive highlights of the night.

-The Texans offense would respond after the fourth-down stop with a six-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller over Jonathan Jones that made it 21-3. Watson had Fuller for a touchdown on second down but Fuller couldn't hold on. He didn't make the same mistake twice as the Texans attacked the Patriots zero blitz with perfect execution.

-The Patriots have had decent injury luck lately but suffered a significant blow when Ted Karras left the game and didn't return with a knee injury. James Ferentz was called upon to fill in as Karras' status will be something to monitor.

-Down 21-3 the offense would start to wake up, putting together their best drive since their first of the game. It went 12 plays, 75 yards and was capped off with a 12-yard James White touchdown catch out of the backfield on a third down. The drive included three different penalties on the Patriots and was finished with a terrible sequence of taking a delay of game penalty while attempting a two-point conversion then seeing Forbath miss the extra point. Again a positive step forward was offset by bad football setting them back.

-Houston would put the hammer down on the next drive, going 75 yards in nine plays and scoring another touchdown, this one run in by Watson after taking a pass from Hopkins, making the score 28-9 and effectively sealing the game. This was the first time this season that the Patriots pass defense was picked apart as Watson went 18-of-25 for 234 yards with three passing touchdowns.

-The Patriots would put two last desperation drives together, making the final score look more respectable than it was. Maybe they found some things to build off of from those drives but they were too little too late and they're going to need a lot better effort against the Chiefs.

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