By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — The final score of 27-20 told the story of a game that appeared to be perhaps closer than it actually was in reality. Still, the Texans did have the opportunity to tie the game with a Hail Mary in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.
It was that opportunity — and that inability to demonstrably close out a win on either side of the football — that had Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots a bid subdued after the Week 1 victory.
Brady, making his 41-year-old debut, looked sharp — at least, he looked sharp in the first half. He connected with Rob Gronkowski for a 21-yard touchdown on the team’s second drive of the season, the first of three first-half touchdown passes for Brady. But after completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 154 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on a tipped pass, Brady and the offense couldn’t find their way into the end zone in the second half. And with a chance to ice the game and drain the clock in the final minutes, the Patriots failed to gain the necessary yardage, leading to a final Houston possession.
“I don’t think we played anywhere near what our capabilities are,” Brady said after the game. “So, I think it’s good to win. Obviously. But we gotta do a lot better than that. Just turning the ball over, and not taking advantage of some opportunities that we had out there, all of us probably look at the game and realize we probably could’ve done a lot of things differently.”
In a place like Foxboro, Brady was far from the only player to share such thoughts.
“Oh yeah, definitely. We played solid, but we didn’t play great. We’re going to see that tomorrow. It’s never as good as it seems,” said safety Duron Harmon, who picked up an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Texans’ final drive. “So we’re going to see what we can do better, and do better next week vs. Jacksonville.”
James White caught for passes for 38 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 18 yards on five carries. Having been a part of the Patriots’ culture since 2014, the running back knew that a narrow victory in Week 1 was no reason to feel too great.
“We definitely didn’t play our best game,” White said flatly after the game. “We had a couple of stagnant drives, had some turnovers. We definitely want to eliminate those. We’ll get back to the drawing board and watch the film and definitely have to improve because we play another good defense next week [in Jacksonville].”
Offensively overall, the Patriots gained 389 yards and put 27 points on the board. But they turned the ball over twice, they scored just six points in the second half, and they went just 4-for-14 on third down. Even though the Patriots are a bit shorthanded at the receiver position, Brady said there’s no adaptation for the expectations — not this week or any other week.
“Absolutely, I think that’s the point of playing football,” Brady explained. “It’s not, ‘Oh, this guy, this is what his level of expectation is. That’s what we should put the team’s expectation at.’ It’s if you’re playing in the slot, you’ve got to play as well as any slot receiver we’ve ever had. If you play on the perimeter, you’ve got to play as well as any receiver we’ve ever had — tight end, quarterback, running back — and guys can play up to that. I think you can’t sit there and coach or communicate and go, ‘Oh, well, that’s OK because you’re not quite there yet.’ I mean, I think you’ve got to coach hard and you’ve got to correct guys and you’ve got to correct yourself and have high expectation for yourself, and that’s how you have high expectation for the team.”
That — along with all the other commentary from Patriots players — is of course indicative of the standard set by Bill Belichick. For his part, on a day when Belichick passed Tom Landry on the all-time list for most regular-season wins, the coach was on brand with his postgame remarks.
“There were a lot of good things in every area and then there are things we need to do a better job on,” Belichick said. “We’ll just keep working at it.”