By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — No Brady. No Garoppolo. No problem for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots improved to 3-0 on the season with a 27-0 win over the Houston Texans, and they did so with their third-string quarterback, rookie Jacoby Brissett, leading the way on offense. It was almost too easy for the Patriots, who capitalized on a pair of Houston miscues on kickoffs to build their insurmountable lead.
It’s only Week 3, and it came against a Houston team that seemed like they forgot they had a Thursday night game on the schedule. But this was a special victory for the Patriots. They entered as underdogs, at home, and the Patriots executed on all fronts. Bill Belichick and his staff had a great game plan on both sides of the ball, adding a whole new layer to the saying “In Bill We Trust.” The defense made up for that second half against Miami on Sunday by pitching a shutout. The offense did what they had to do. It was complimentary football at its finest, which will make Belichick giddy (behind closed doors, of course) for the next 10 days.
Heck, even Bill had to sing some praise after this one.
“This is really a satisfying win. Starting this week, our coaching staff did a tremendous job,” Belichick said after the victory. “Just, how hard they worked to prepare the team to get them ready and how creative the players were. We came in after the Miami game and just turned the page. We really asked a lot out of the team this week and they really responded. They didn’t bat an eye and we got a lot of great leadership from our captains. Everyone stepped up and I’m really proud with the way the guys competed.”
We usually list four ups and four downs following each Patriots game, but it just doesn’t seem right to have any downs following a convincing win like Thursday night’s. It’s just a shame the Patriots can only play one quarterback at a time, because it appears they have three that are pretty good at playing the position.
Brissett Does His Job
A rookie making his first career start just four days after being thrown into action is usually a recipe for disaster. But Brissett was anything but on Thursday night, throwing for 103 yards while rushing for 48 more on eight carries, including a beautiful 27-yard touchdown run for the first score of his career.
It was the longest TD run by a Patriots quarterback since Steve Grogan’s 41-yard score in 1976.
He struggled a bit with the long ball, but he didn’t turn the ball over and he played with poise. If the Patriots have to turn to Brissett again in Week 4, they have to feel confident in the rookie.
Blount The Bulldozer
He didn’t do much in the first half, but Blount was there when the Patriots needed to kill clock in the second half. He once again ran with authority, totaling 105 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns, including a 41-yard score in the fourth quarter. He’s up to four touchdowns this season, which ties the team record for most rushing scores through three games.
Blount wouldn’t have been able to do his thing, and Brissett’s color rush jersey wouldn’t be so clean, without a stellar night from the offensive line. Brissett was sacked just once, and J.J. Watt was a ghost on the field — if he was even on the field. He may have got lost on the way to Gillette.
Defense Puts Up A Goose Egg
After the second half against Miami, there were some serious questions about a defensive unit that was supposed to be among the best in the league.
There aren’t many questions anymore. DeAndre Hopkins had some ridiculous catches, but he only caught four passes for 56 yards and was a relative non-factor. The same can be said for rookie Will Fuller, who finished with just three catches.
Jamie Collins was a monster all over the field on Thursday night, finishing with 14 total tackles and an interception, and Jabaal Sheard finished with two sacks, his first of the season.
Making The Most Of Turnovers
The Texans fumbled away two kickoffs thanks to the hard-hitting special teams unit of the Patriots, and the offense found the end zone on both of their free possessions. It’s hard not to find put up seven points when you start at the opposition’s 22 and 21-yard line, respectively, but the Patriots made the Texans pay for their miscues.
Specials teams make a giant difference in this one, but it wasn’t just the fumbles. Ryan Allen was a punting machine, averaging 47.6 yards on his seven kicks with a long of 57 yards. The Texans didn’t return a single boot off of Ryan’s foot, calling for a fair catch on each of his seven punts.
Here’s where the Texans started following a Ryan punt: 11-yard line; 10-yard line; 10-yard line; 20-yard line; 14-yard line; 5-yard line; 4-yard line
That’s just downright filthy.
Gronk Returns — And Isn’t Needed
Rob Gronkowski was on the field for this one, but he wasn’t a factor, and the Patriots still cruised to an easy win. It’s great that he got in and knocked off some rust, serving mostly as a blocker, but it’s better that the Patriots had an easy win without him doing much in the passing attack.
Walking Away Healthy
Playing on Thursday night is not easy, but the Patriots not only won the game but they but did so without suffering any key injuries. Dont’a Hightower didn’t play for the second straight game with a knee injury, but he now has 10 days to get better, and no one joined him on the injury list.