By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the midst of a rainy, dreary late afternoon at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, with Tom Brady’s and Josh McDaniels’ offense stuck in the proverbial mud, a common refrain could be heard echoing throughout New England, as football fans in the region together wondered one simple question.READ MORE: Massachusetts To Provide Weekly At-Home COVID Tests For Students, Staff At Schools
Where the [bleep] is James White?
It was a fair question. While Sony Michel was doing his part on the ground, not much else was working too well for the offense. One might have thought that in the soaked conditions, the slippery White could prove useful in maintaining some drives. Alas, White finished the game with just one reception (on three targets), which went for a loss of six yards. He had five yards rushing on just two carries, and he was on the field for just 21 of 68 snaps. He clearly was not a significant part of the game plan.
That’s been something of a theme this season. In 10 games played, White has yet to gain 100 yards from scrimmage in a single game. He topped 100 yards from scrimmage five times in 19 games last season, continuing his development as a dynamic dual threat out of the backfield and split out wide. He doubled his previous career high by scoring 12 touchdowns (five on the ground and seven through the air) while amassing 1,176 yards from scrimmage in the regular season. This year, for a variety of reasons, he hasn’t taken the next step forward from a production standpoint. (He’s on pace to record under 800 yards from scrimmage, and he has just two touchdowns.)
That, though, should change this coming Sunday, when the Patriots visit the Texans. With the offense limping a bit over the past month, the Texans’ porous pass defense is exactly what the Patriots need. And White should be the biggest beneficiary.READ MORE: Maura Murray's Family Says FBI Putting Out Nationwide Bulletin For Missing UMass Student
Overall, the Texans rank 25th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (259), and 22nd in yards allowed per passing attempt (7.02). They rank third-to-last in interception rate (1.23 percent), as they have just five interceptions all season. They’ve been unable to get to the quarterback, too, as they rank 28th in sack rate (5.42 percent). They’re not tremendously better as a run defense (17th in rushing yards allowed per game, 24th allowed in rushing yards allowed per attempt), and they have the second-worst third-down defense in the entire NFL.
Taken together, it appears safe to believe that Brady and McDaniels will find a way to rile their offense out of its slumber, and they’ll have a variety of avenues to explore in that journey.
In the midst of all of those rough stats for Houston’s defense is one that stands out: Through 11 games, they’ve given up the most receptions and the second-most receiving yards to running backs. Opposing quarterbacks are 78-for-88 (88.6 percent) for 646 yards, four touchdowns and one interception when targeting running backs against Houston this season. That’s a 107.7 passer rating, and it’s essentially been free money for opposing QBs this season.
One might reasonably assume, then, that Sunday night should present the opportunity for White — and Rex Burkhead — to make a mark on this game through some creative pass plays. It’s been a relatively quiet season for both of them, but the opportunity these next two weeks (Kansas City is the only to team to have allowed more receiving yards to running backs than Houston has) should change that in a short amount of time.MORE NEWS: NFL Films Catches Emotional Moment Between Damien Harris, Ivan Fears During Patriots' Playoff Loss