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Patriots Shift Focus To Balanced Texans

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Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) –  After dispatching the Miami Dolphins and clinching their fourth straight AFC East title, the New England Patriots are now moving on and preparing for their Monday Night showdown with the top-seeded Houston Texans next week at Gillette.

The 11-1 Texans are a tough match-up for any team, with a solid group on both offense and defense.

Houston’s passing defense only ranks 19th in the NFL, but they stop the run with the best of them, allowing just 87.6 yards per game — second in the league.

“This is an aggressive team that plays physical, tough defense,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Monday. “I think they play fast. They play very hard up front and do a lot of really good things with their front three or four depending on whether they’re in base or in a sub-mode.”

“Obviously they do a great job in terms of trying to take care of the running game,” added McDaniels. “They’re top five in fewest points allowed. They’re certainly a good situational football team; third down, red zone defense is excellent. And they’ve created turnovers and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this is going to be a big challenge for us. They have talented players at every level of their defense and they’re obviously very well coached, so we’re going to have to do a great job in preparing for them this week. “

One player that will keep McDaniels up late this week is JJ Watt, who is having an MVP caliber year. The linebacker is second in the league with 15.5 sacks and has tallied 59 tackles so far. He is also a factor in the pass game, deflecting 15 passes with his 82-inch wingspan, so it will take a full effort from everyone on the Patriots offensive line — and offense in general — to contain him.

“Obviously he’s having a great year and obviously he’s a great player no matter where they line him up. The fact that they move him a little bit inside and outside, we’re going to have to have more than one guy ready to handle him and block him,” said McDaniels. “It won’t just fall to the guard or to the tackle. It could be anybody at times, based on the way they play him.”

“We have to do a great job of trying to simulate his effort, his motor and some of the things he does to disrupt people in the running game and the passing game and have to make sure we’re very mindful of taking care of the football and not letting him get his hands on balls, because he’s certainly created a lot of disruptive opportunities for them defensively by tipping the ball and batting the ball up in the air,” McDaniels added.

As for the Houston offense, the Patriots will have to try to slow down running back Arian Foster, who is first in the NFL with 15 touchdowns and fourth with 1,102 rushing yards.

But Houston also has a very strong passing attack, led by quarterback Matt Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson. With an all-around balanced attack, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will have his hands full this week.

“You’re talking about a very balanced, very well put together offense,” Patricia said Monday. “The quarterback is obviously a talented player that is really doing a phenomenal job running the system they run. The biggest thing for us obviously is trying to somehow figure out how to stop this running game, which is a critical part of what they do, along with the passing game ability that they have.”

“The main point of emphasis is going to do a really good job with the fundamentals here and make sure that we play good, solid team defense and being able to stop the run and the passing game and hopefully handle the guys up front to the best of our ability and try to do a good job there,” said Patricia.

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