By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — This was just an ugly, ugly football game. Fumbles at the one-centimeter line, punts off a teammate’s head. Patriots-Texans had it all — as long as you like bad football.

It was that punt by Cameron Johnston of the Texans — which bounced off the dome of another Texan and ended up being a zero-yard kick, following the Texans pretending to maybe think about going for it on fourth down — that really turned the tides of the game. The Patriots turned that blunder into points, and scored on their four possessions that followed. It led to a much-needed 25-22 win for New England.

It really shouldn’t have been that hard against the Texans, especially after the Patriots put up such a great fight against the Buccaneers last weekend. But it was that tough, as New England had to shake off a miserable start. At least they showed off some guts after falling behind 22-9 in the third quarter, improving to 2-3 on the season.

There were ups for the Patriots. There were downs for the Patriots. There were even more downs for the Texans, which is why the Patriots leave Houston with a victory.

Ups

Matt Judon

Matt Judon remains awesome. Like Defensive Player of the Year awesome.

He sacked Davis Mills on a first-and-goal, and then again on a third-and-goal just ahead of halftime. The Texans had to settle for a 33-yard field goal on the drive because of Judon’s ability to get to the quarterback.

Judon had four total tackles, two sacks and three QB hits, and is up to 6.5 sacks on the season. Chase Winovich was the New England’s team leader in 2020 with 5.5 sacks.

Judon is worth every penny of that contract.

Mac’s Efficiency

He completed his first nine passes and finished 23 of 30 for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mac was 7-for-9 on third downs, with five of those completions either moving the chains or putting points on the board.

His fourth quarter touchdown pass to Hunter Henry came on a third-and-6 play, and it was a beaut.

Hunter Henry

Henry was incredibly solid on Sunday, finishing with six catches for 75 yards (both of which led the Patriots) and his touchdown reception. He also had a big reception on 3rd-and-6 in the fourth quarter to keep New England’s game-winning field goal drive alive.

Henry is heating up, with touchdown catches in back-to-back weeks.

Nick Folk

Folk missed an extra point, but then he went out an booted two 52-yard field goals, a 32-yarder, and the game-winning kick from 21 yards out. The vet is nails out there.

Running The Ball Worked This Week

After their negative rushing night against the Buccaneers, and with a patchwork offensive line this week, there wasn’t much hope for the Patriots running game on Sunday. But they showed up, picking up 126 yards on 30 carries.

There was one big miscue, which we’ll get to, but overall it was a good day on the ground for New England. Damien Harris led the way with 58 yards on 14 carries before leaving the game in the fourth. Rhamondre Stevenson saw the field again, but picked up just 23 yards on his 11 carries. The biggest run of the day was a 24-yard scamper by Brandon Bolden off a toss to the left down to the Houston 18 late in the game.

It wasn’t perfect. But there was progress, as the Patriots averaged 4.2 yards per carry and picked up 12 first downs on the ground. Not bad for a team with four of its starting offensive linemen out for the game.

Downs

Late-Down Defense

The Texans converted their three fourth-down attempts in the first half, including a 40-yard connection down to the four-yard line between Mills and Chris Conley on a fourth-and-2 just ahead of halftime. Devin McCourty was the guilty party in the New England secondary on that play.

On a 3rd-and-3 at the end of the third quarter, Mills hit Chris Moore for a 27-yard connection over the middle. Moore — who is a Texans practice squad player — was wide open on the play and finished with five catches for 109 yards.

The Texans tailed off in the second half and finished 6-for-14 overall on third down. Plus there was that “blocked” punt that came after the Texans fooled around before a fourth down snap. But the Pats need to be better on third down to start games.

J.C. Jackson

New England’s top corner committed pass interference against Brandin Cooks on a third down incompletion on the Texans’ opening drive. Instead of a punt, the drive continued, and the Texans drove 79 yards for a touchdown on the 18-play, 10:06 drive.

The next drive, Mills threw a desperation bomb to Moore on third down just out of the outstretched arms of Jackson, and Moore took it for a 67-yard touchdown.

Jackson also had a holding flag on a first-and-goal just before halftime, moving the Texans closer to the end zone on a drive that ended with a Houston field goal.

Damien Harris

Just as he was capping off a nice drive with a touchdown run — which would have been his second of the day — he let Houston cornerback Terrance Mitchell punch the ball out of his hands, which Jaleel Johnson recovered in the end zone. Instead of a touchdown to likely give the Patriots a 13-12 lead, Houston got the ball back and held on to its 12-6 advantage.

It was Harris’ second fumble of the season, and the last thing the Patriots needed after the defense surrendered two touchdown drives to start the game. Harris was benched in favor of Rhamondre Stevenson to start the second half. He also left with a chest injury but returned, and looked pretty good upon that return. Then he left again in the fourth quarter with a rib injury.

Meyers’ Drop

The receiver is still looking for his first career touchdown. He let a golden opportunity to find the end zone in epic fashion late in the first half in Houston.

Jones went to a wide open Meyers deep on a 2nd-and-10 pass, but the receiver bobbled the ball and let it fall to the turf. Meyers had plenty of open field in front of him and likely would have ran for a long score had he caught the ball. He was lucky, considering Terrance Mitchell was hit with an illegal hands to the face flag on the play.

The Patriots settled for a field goal to close out the first half, trailing the Texans 15-9 at the break.

 

CBSBoston.com Staff