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Game Preview: Patriots at Texans

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WEEK 5 · Sun 10/10 · 1:00 PM EDT

Patriots

New England Patriots

AT

Texans

Houston Texans

CBS / WBZ
98.5 FM The Sports Hub
NRG STADIUM

For the third straight year, the New England Patriots will travel to the Houston Texans, as they begin two consecutive games against Texas teams. The Patriots will host Dallas the following week.

The Patriots will play Houston for the seventh straight season despite not being in the same division. That mark is tied for the second-longest streak of games against a non-division opponent for New England. The Patriots faced Indianapolis for 10 straight seasons (2003-12) and Denver for seven straight seasons (2011-17). The only other non-division teams to meet at least seven consecutive seasons since 2002 were Buffalo and Kansas City, who played eight straight seasons from 2008-15.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

Houston's defense will give the Patriots opportunities so it's imperative that the offense converts in the red zone

When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots

After facing two of the league's stingiest run defenses the last two weeks the Patriots should get a chance to crank things up on the ground Sunday in Houston. The Texans rank 28th in league against the run, allowing 137 yards per game. That total isn't just the product of the Texans early struggles as a team, either, as opponents have averaged 4.5 yards per rush, which ranks 21st in the league as well. Perhaps even more telling is the eight rushing touchdowns the Texans allowed over the first four weeks, so the Patriots should be able to get Damien Harris cranked up in this one. The last two weeks have been tough sledding as a combination of the offensive line struggling and the Saints and Bucs being tough to run on has limited Harris to a total of 10 yards in two games. He should crack that total on the first series as Josh McDaniels may look to get some more balance to the attack. Harris may get some help from Rhamondre Stevenson this week after the rookie was a healthy scratch the last three games following an opening day fumble and missed assignment on a blitz pickup. With James White on IR some felt Stevenson would return against the Bucs, but considering the game plan didn't figure to call for many rushing attempts (the Patriots ran it just eight times) the need for a backup ball carrier wasn't great. Look for Harris to get going early, and also for him to get some red zone work as the Patriots need to improve their ground attack.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Patriots

The Texans secondary hasn't been much better than the guys up front. Houston plays a soft two-deep zone, leaving plenty of opportunities for the types of short, underneath passes Mac Jones has completed with great efficiency. Terrance Mitchell, Desmond King, Tavierre Thomas and Vernon Hargreaves see time at corner while Lonnie Johnson, Justin Reid and Eric Murray work at safety. While there is some individual talent in this group, collectively it has struggled at times, especially over the past two weeks with little to no support from its offense while quarterback Tyrod Taylor is out. Jones has been willing to take the quick throws that have resulted in modest gains as the Patriots have had some success moving the ball at times. The problem has been pass protection as Jones has been sacked 10 times and hit 34 additional times. Veteran Whitney Mercilus is a solid pass rusher and has 3 sacks on the season to lead the Texans in that department. Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers all contributed against the Bucs last week, as did tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. The latter two showed up in the red zone with a touchdown apiece, which is a welcome sight for an offense that has struggled in that department. The Texans made life difficult in that area against Buffalo, forcing field goals the first four times the Bills got close before collapsing in the fourth quarter. The offense's ability to convert will be a key in this one.

When the Texans run - Edge: Patriots

On paper the Texans should be able to control the ball a bit with a capable stable of backs at its disposal. Veterans Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Phillip Linsey and Rex Burkhead have the ability to keep opponents on their heels with their running. And the fact that the Patriots haven't been particularly stout this season stopping the run is another factor in Houston's favor. But the Texans ground game has been simply awful. They rank last in the league, averaging 3.2 yards per carry, and 26th with 83 yards per game. The absence of Taylor has played a huge role in those numbers, and Taylor won't play Sunday as he remains on IR with a pulled hamstring. That leaves rookie Davis Mills at the helm, and his presence allows opponents to stack the box and stop the run. So, even though the Patriots rank 19th against the run, allowing 122 yards per game, New England should be able to contain this limited attack. Davin Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore improved in that area as the game progressed Sunday night, and look for that group to continue to progress against a Houston team that hasn't been able to muster much production on the ground so far this season.

When the Texans pass - Edge: Patriots

Mills showed some promise in his first start, a Thursday night loss to Carolina in Week 3, before collapsing with a four-pick outing in Buffalo on Sunday. Prior to the Bills game Mills showed a lot of the same qualities we've seen in Jones, getting rid of the ball quickly and showing some accuracy and poise after replacing Taylor in Week 2 in Cleveland and against the Panthers. He figures to return to that level back home without the weather concerns he dealt with in Buffalo. He'll look to keep Brandin Cooks involved as the former Patriots is far and away the Texans top target with 28 catches for 369 yards and a touchdown thus far. No one else has more than eight receptions as Chris Conley, Danny Amendola and Anthony Miller haven't been consistent threats. The Patriots secondary turned in its strongest effort of the season against the high-powered Bucs as J.C. Jackson in particular did a nice job covering Mike Evans. Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones also competed well while safeties Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger provided help over the top. The rookie Mills will face some looks from Bill Belichick that he likely hasn't seen, and the Patriots defense should be able to contain what has been a very limited passing attack.

Special Teams - Edge: Texans

There haven't been many positive moments for the Patriots special teams this season and some of those problems persisted on Sunday. Two more penalties in the kicking game, one of which prevented a possible turnover, as well as a muffed punt return that could have been disastrous were added to the list. Nick Folk hasn't been part of the problem even though his streak of 36 straight made field goals came to an end when he hit the left upright from 56 yards out. But the Patriots have been sloppy and Houston has a dangerous return man in Andre Roberts to contend with. Belichick has often chosen to kick away from Roberts in the past, so it will be interesting to see how they approach things on Sunday. Houston's Joey Slye had made 4 of 5 field goals and 7 of 8 PATs this season in place of the injured Ka'imi Fairbairn, who returned on Sunday in Buffalo. Cameron Johnston averages over 47 yards a punt and has just one touchback in 21 kicks. Jake Bailey showed some improvement after an uncharacteristically slow start, pinning the Bucs inside their 20 twice in four punts on Sunday. The Patriots need to get better in the kicking game

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 Regular Season New England Houston
Record 1-3 1-3
Divisional Standings 2nd (T) 2nd (T)
Total Yards Gained 1,247 1,053
Total Offense (Rank) 311.8 (26) 263.3 (30)
Rush Offense 68.5 (31) 83.0 (26)
Pass Offense 243.3 (17T) 180.3 (29)
Points Per Game 17.8 (27) 16.8 (28T)
Total Yards Allowed 1,227 1,607
Total Defense (Rank) 306.8 (5) 401.8 (28)
Rush Defense 121.8 (19) 137.0 (28)
Pass Defense 185.0 (4) 264.8 (22)
Points Allowed/Game 17.5 (6) 29.0 (28)
Possession Avg. 29:28 26:30
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost 10/84 9/52
Sacks Made/Yards 10/69 7/46
Total Touchdowns Scored 6 8
Penalties Against/Yards 26/245 31/279
Punts/Avg. 17/46.4 21/47.3
Turnover Differential -2 (24T) -1 (18T)

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots will face Houston for the seventh straight year in the regular season and for the third straight year in Houston. The Patriots have lost the last two seasons in Houston, including a 27-20 loss on Nov. 22, 2020. The Patriots are 4-2 against the Texans over the six previous regular season games.

In 2016, the Patriots and Texans played two times with New England taking a 27-0 victory on Sept. 22 and a 34-16 win in the Divisional Playoffs. Both of those games were played at Gillette Stadium.

Overall, the Patriots have met Houston 13 times and hold an 10-3 advantage since Houston entered the NFL in 2002, including 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the postseason.

The Patriots are 3-3 overall against the Texans when playing in Houston.

Before the Texans joined the league, the Patriots and the Houston Oilers were foes dating back to the days of the American Football League, playing twice a year from 1960-69 and 33 times overall before the Oilers moved to Tennessee following the 1996 season.

Patriots.com's Mike Dussault shares his players to watch ahead of the Patriots Week 5 matchup against the Houston Texans.

CONNECTIONS

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • WR Danny Amendola (2013-17)
  • DB Terrence Brooks (2019-20)
  • RB Rex Burkhead (2017-20)
  • G Marcus Cannon (2011-19)
  • GM Nick Caserio (2001-20)
  • WR Brandin Cooks (2017)
  • Sr. Advisor Romeo Crennel (DC/DL 2001-2004) (DLC 1993-96)
  • VP of Football Ops Jack Easterby – Team Development and Character Coach (2013-18)
  • OL Hjalte Froholdt (2019-20)
  • LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (2016 draft pick)
  • CB Cre'Von LeBlanc (2016 rookie free agent)
  • DB A.J. Moore (2018 rookie free agent)
  • DE Derek Rivers (2017-20)
  • STC Frank Ross (2011-17)
  • Offensive Consultant Carl Smith (1997-99)

FORMER TEXANS

  • QB Brian Hoyer (2015)
  • OL James Ferentz (2014-15)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • The Patriots have gone 90 straight games (regular and postseason) scoring in the first half, an NFL record. The Patriots also own the second-longest streak at 82 games with a first-half score (2006-11). The last time the Patriots failed to score in the first half was a 16-0 loss at home against Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2016.
  • Jakobi Meyers has totaled at least eight receptions in his last two games, with nine receptions vs. New Orleans, followed by eight receptions vs. Tampa Bay.
  • Matt Judon has recorded a sack in three straight games. If Judon records a sack against the Texans, he will become the first Patriots player with a sack in four straight games since Jamie Collins and Chase Winovich, who both had sacks in four straight games in 2019.
  • The last Patriots player with at least eight receptions in three straight games was Julian Edelman in 2016.
  • Mac Jones has passed for 1,012 yards during the first four games and is on pace for 4,301 passing yards. He has more passing yards than the other two rookie quarterbacks with four starts.
  • Matthew Slater will play in his 194th regular season game this week. He needs to play in seven more games to become the fifth Patriots player with 200 career regular season games.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Andrew Catalon will handle play-by-play duties with James Lofton as the color analyst. Amanda Balionis will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Steve McKee and directed by Andy Goldberg.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.

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