By Traci McCartney //@traciamc
Patriots 27 – Texans 20
The New England Patriots started off the 2018 season with an exciting and sometimes nail-biting win over the Houston Texans, who were led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, 27-20. QB Tom Brady did Tom Brady things and completed 26 passes of 39 attempts for 277 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT (a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage), spreading the ball around to 8 different receivers.
As with every game, there was good, bad, and definitely room for improvement. But, here are some of my thoughts on the game:
- The defense looked much improved, even with the loss of former Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia to the Detroit Lions. Brian Flores, linebackers coach, was tasked with the defensive play calling, which he did rather well. They held the Texans to only 6 points in the first half, even after a Brady pass that was intercepted on the Patriots’ 17 yd line. They allowed only 176 passing yards and 40 rushing yards, 113 yds of that were in the second half. Last year, the Patriots had a difficult time with Watson but this year, they seemed to do a much better job of containing him.
- Speaking of defense, defensive ends Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, Jr. each had a sack and combined for a sack for an 18 yd loss. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy put a lot of pressure on Watson forcing him to make mistakes.
- The offensive line looked really good. Brady was sacked twice, both times in the second half and both times by defensive tackle DJ Reader. Offensive tackle Trent Brown did a pretty good job of handling DE Jadeveon Clowney and we didn’t hear DE JJ Watt’s name much at all in the first half.
- Special Teams needs to do better on limiting yards on kick-off returns. They gave up 156 yds on kick returns and good field position. As for punt returns, wide receiver Riley McCarron who was brought in off of the practice squad made a fatal mistake in the 4th quarter. A punt bounced off his face mask and he turned the ball over to the Texans deep in Patriots’ territory. That resulted in a TD by the Texans that brought them within 7. It was a serious mistake for McCarron, who was cut Tuesday morning.
The Patriots release Riley McCarron. You mess up under Belichick, you’re gone
— Patriots Militia (@PatsMilitia) September 10, 2018
- DE Jonathan Jones made the perfect play on the Patriots final punt, downing the ball inside the 1 yd line. If the Texans were going to tie or win the game, they were going to have to go the length of the field to do it.
- Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had most of the responsibility of limiting Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins. Last year, Hopkins averaged 92 yds per game, but he was held to 78 yards on Sunday. Gilmore also picked off Watson in the end zone. He did, however, have 2 holding penalties on the Texans’ drive directly following the muffed punt.
- Tight end Rob Gronkowski had his first fumble in 6 years, but other than that seems to be back to being Gronk. He had 7 receptions for 123 yds and a TD. WR Phillip Dorsett really seems to be fitting well into the offense this year, and clearly has earned Brady’s trust. He led the wide receiving group on Sunday with 7 catches for 66 yds and a TD.
- The loss of running back Jeremy Hill, who blocked a punt and averaged 6.3 yds a carry on 4 carries for 24 yds, is devastating. Fullback James Develin was blocked into Hill, who left the game with a torn ACL and will be out for the season. With rookie RB Sony Michel out with a knee injury (we don’t know when he’ll be back), the RB position is depleted. With the release of WRs Riley McCarron and Chad Hansen, and with Hill now on the IR, the Patriots now have 3 open roster spots. On Monday, the Patriots signed 2 WRs: former first-round pick Corey Coleman and Bennie Fowler. Hopefully, they’ll be able to sign another RB to help James White and Rex Burkhead.
All in all, a good win for the Patriots. They travel to Jacksonville next week to take on the Jaguars, their 2017 AFC Championship opponents, fresh off a 20-15 win over the Giants.
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