BOSTON (CBS) – It wasn’t pretty football, but the Patriots improved to 9-3 on the season with a 34-31 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
The Patriots got off to a slow start for the third straight week, but were able to come back against the lowly Texans, who dropped their 10th straight game with the loss.
A win is a win, and the Pats improved to 45-6 in the month of December since 2001 with the victory. It also gives New England their 13th straight winning season, and they become the first team to win more than half of their games in 13 straight seasons since free agency began in 1993.
But as good as those numbers are, they mean little in regards to the Patriots’ effort on Sunday. Here is what went right, and what went wrong, for the Patriots in Houston:
Gronk/Edelman Big On Offense
For the third time this season, the Patriots had two 100-yard receivers as both Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman went over the century mark.
Gronkowski was a beast again, hauling in six catches for 127 yards and one highlight reel touchdown. Gronk’s score was the Patriots first of the game, as the tight end took a low pass from Brady and turned it into an amazing shoe-string grab and rolled into the end zone for the score.
Gronk also had a huge play to start the second half, setting up James Develin’s one-yard touchdown run with a 50-yard catch down to the Houston 13-yard line. Brady hit Gronkowski deep over the middle, and Gronk took care of the rest. A pair of Texans defenders tried to bring Gronkowski down at the Houston 20, but he carried them another seven yards down the field before being pushed out of bounds. It was Gronk’s third 50+ yard reception of his career.
Brady said plays like that get everyone on the team fired up, and when Gronkowski gets it going it’s a whole new story for the Patriots’ offense.
As for Edelman, he finished with a game-high nine receptions for 101 yards, moving the chains for the Patriots on seven different occasions. Three of his first downs came on a single drive in the third quarter that ended with a Vereen touchdown, with two others coming on third-and-longs.
Edelman now has a team-leading 70 receptions on the season.
Gostkowski Boots Winning Field Goal
Gostkowski missed a 55-yarder in the first half, snapping a streak of 21-straight made field goals, but he was money in the second half with a pair of 53-yarders.
Gostkowski’s 53-yarder with 3:12 left in the game was the difference in this one, and the Patriots probably wouldn’t have escaped with the win if it wasn’t for their kicker’s golden leg.
For the season, Gostkowski is 26-for-27 in his field goal attempts.
James Develin Gets Into Mix
With Stevan Ridley inactive for the game, there were some questions about New England’s rush attack. Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount combined for just 84 rushing yards, but fullback James Develin got into the mix with his first career touchdown.
Develin has been used sparingly this season, but was ready when his number was called on first-and-goal at the Houston one. Develin couldn’t punch it in on his first, second, third, fourth or fifth effort, but kept running and eventually found the end zone to make it a 17-14 game in the second quarter.
The former practice squad player gave an all-out effort when he was on the field, and was awarded with a hard-fought touchdown.
For the second game this season, the Patriots did not have any penalties.
Another Slow Start
In each of the last three games the Patriots have allowed the first 10 points of the contest, and they’ve now trailed at halftime in four of their last five games. In those five games, the Patriots have averaged just nine first-half points.
While the Pats have done a great job at answering their sluggish starts, it’s something that will eventually catch up to them.
Rough Day For Defense
The Texans came into Sunday’s game with just two rushing touchdowns on the season. On Sunday, they ran it into the end zone four times against the Patriots.
Overall it was a horrid day for the New England defense with numerous breakdowns. The Texans pretty much ran the ball at will, the Pats left the likes of Andre Johnson wide open on a couple different occasions for big gains, and Kyle Arrington was burnt badly on a 66-yard reception by DeAndre Hopkins.
The Patriots also had several issues with their tackling on Sunday, which will be a big focus during practice this week.
Kenbrell Thompkins Hurt
With Aaron Dobson inactive with a foot injury, it looked like this was Kenbrell Thompkins’ week to get back into the flow of the offense.
But Thompkins made just one catch before a hip injury kept him from getting too involved. Thompkins left briefly in the first half, returned for a handful of plays, but then had to sit for good with the ailment.
We’ll have to keep an eye on this one over the next week as the Patriots prepare for a matchup with the Cleveland Browns at Gillette.
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