By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This was supposed to be the weekend that the Patriots offense got on track against a suspect Houston Texans defense. That did not happen, and now the Patriots are no longer the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Patriots lost to the Texans 28-22 in Houston, and it wasn’t really that close. They now sit behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC standings, with the Ravens holding the tie-break thanks to their Week 9 win over New England. Essentially, the Patriots are going to have to win out in order to have a shot at the No. 1 seed again.
The Patriots offense is still struggling, and Tom Brady is still frustrated with the team’s inability to score points. But we’ve gotten used to that sight, so that was business as usual. It was the defense looking pedestrian that adds another layer of concern, as the D once again struggled against a mobile quarterback. Deshaun Watson was way too comfortable throughout the game, tossing three touchdowns in the Houston win.
The Texans have long been considered the little brother to the Patriots, the team that will never beat their elder sibling. That is no longer the case, as Bill O’Brien picked up his first victory over Bill Belichick. There is no other way to put it: Sunday night’s effort is a massive disappointment.
We usually list four ups and four downs after each game, but that will not be the case this time around. There were not four ups for the Patriots in this loss, but plenty of downs. So let’s get right to it:
Bradley Roby jumped in front of N’Keal Harry’s route and easily picked off the lazy pass by Brady. Harry could have fought a little more on the play, but it was a bad pass by Brady. He did not go Harry’s way again the rest of the night.
— NFL (@NFL) December 2, 2019
The interception was Brady’s sixth of the season, and the fourth time he’s been picked off on a third down pass. That interception completely changed the momentum of the game and turned into seven points for Houston, as Watson hit Duke Johnson for a 17-yard score a few plays later.
After a failed 3rd-and-7 in the second quarter, where Brady urged Jakobi Meyers to go upfield but the receiver did not, Brady let his frustration show on the sidelines. He had an animated conversation with his receivers on the bench, urging them to play faster, quicker and more explosive. “Separation” was also uttered a few times.
“Listen up… we gotta be faster, quicker, more explosive.”
Great catch here of Tom Brady going full angry dad at his wife receivers pic.twitter.com/ky3BOGf6GP
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) December 2, 2019
That pep talk didn’t help much.
Not The 2019 Defense We’ve Seen
The Patriots had allowed four passing touchdowns all season heading into Sunday night’s game. They then went out and allowed four passing touchdowns to the Texans.
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for just six receptions and 72 yards, but others got the best of the Patriots secondary. In the third quarter, Fuller had a touchdown catch taken off the board after it was determined he didn’t get both feet in bounds, but then Watson went right back to the deep ball and hit Kenny Stills for a 35-yard scoring strike. Jonathan Jones made a nice play to knock the ball away from Fuller late, but then got burned by Stills.
That sequence summed up the night for the Patriots defense.
Linebackers Got Picked On
Houston’s second touchdown drive was as legit as they come: 13 plays that covered 88 yards and ate 6:26 off the clock. It was the second-longest drive against the Pats this season, behind Philly’s 90-yard scoring drive two weeks ago.
The Texans had success when they went to running backs and tight ends in the passing game, with those groupings finishing with eight receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Flags In Third Quarter
Two big gains by Jakobi Meyer were taken off the board after a pair of Patriots penalties: A hold on Marcus Cannon and an OPI on Julian Edelman. Meyers lost 54 receiving yards on those two plays.
James White was also whistled for a hold on that drive, as the Pats were whistled for three penalties on a five-play stretch. (Yeesh.) Somehow, that drive ended with a touchdown.
Overall, the Patriots were hit with eight penalties that cost them 60 yards.
Center Ted Karras’ night ended early with a knee injury, and that’s bad news for the offensive line. Karras was the only Pats player to play 100 percent of the snaps this season before going down.
Karras did well filling in for the injured David Andrews, but if he’s hurt, the Patriots will turn to their third-string center in James Ferentz, who replaced Karras on Sunday.
Not only do the Patriots trail the Ravens in the AFC, but the 9-3 Buffalo Bills are right there in the AFC East. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are right there in the AFC East.
One more time: The Buffalo Bills are right behind the Patriots in the AFC East. It should be interesting when the two teams meet at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 21.
Red Zone Offense
This comes with the caveat that both red zone conversions came when the Texans decided to stop playing defense, but the Patriots were 2-for-3 in the red area on Sunday. That is some much-needed progress from the offense.
BUT… the Patriots failed to convert on their red zone try on their opening drive, and settled for a field goal despite getting to the Houston 5-yard line. An early seven points could have changed a lot about Sunday’s game.
James White Says Hello
The all-purpose back has been quiet so far this season, but he broke out of his slump Sunday night. White ran for 79 yards on 14 attempts, including a career-best 32-yard run in the third quarter. He was a monster in the passing game, leading the way with eight receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Meyers In Brady’s Circle Of Trust
He may have caused Brady to voice his criticism on the sideline, but Meyers appears to be in the quarterback’s circle of trust. Brady threw the undrafted rookie’s way seven times on Sunday, with Meyers coming down with three receptions for 46 yards. He also had those two big gains taken away, and drew a pass interference in the fourth quarter.