If things could have not gotten any worse for the Houston Texans on national television, it happened on Monday night versus the New England Patriots. Tom Brady and Company showed the Texans that missed opportunities would come back to haunt the Texans with a 42-14 thrashing at Gillette Stadium.
The Texans started slow and could not match the Patriots’ intensity from the get go and they could not get their footing offensively and early defensively while the Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game. There are plenty of things to look at in this game and not many positives, but let’s take a look at a few things from the game.
- Brandon Harris
With such a positive start of his defensive career last week, Harris showed how green he is as player for the Texans. Taking the place of injured cornerback Brice McCain, Harris’ time on the field the past two weeks has been marred by penalties and poor coverage. He has given up big plays on deep passes and gave up a touchdown to Donte Stallworth that put the Texans in a huge hole. Harris is now a concern and the Texans must know something we don’t too. The signing of Stanford Routt should be a sign that he will be playing sooner than later for the defense.
- Tunnel Vision
Matt Schaub at times looked like he was locked on his wide receivers and would not go through his complete progression. Schaub threw a costly 1st quarter interception when he stared down Kevin Walter in the endzone, and he had Arian Foster underneath with no Patriots’ player within 10 yards of him. He had happy feet again and did not look comfortable the entire game, but that had to do with some questionable pass protection in front of him. The offense is only as good as Schaub goes and Monday night was another testament to his importance to the scheme of things.
- Ben Jones
This has been a theme since Jones has become the every day starter for the Texans at right guard. Jones has serious issues with bigger defensive tackles and Vince Wilfork literally abused Jones the entire night in pass rush and rush defense. Jones has become a liability for the Texans and has opened the door for fellow rookie Brandon Brooks to gain some game snaps. The Texans need to get Jones squared away but the concern is there moving forward.
The Texans were out coached the entire evening and the Patriots used matchups early to get the Texans on their heels. Aaron Hernandez was able to make life easy for Brady when he was covered by Glover Quin and Bradie James, then throw in the quick running backs against the Texans inside linebackers, the defense was struggling to adjust. The Patriots also used Antonio Smith’s aggressiveness against him and let him run up field and blocked him just enough to create creases for their run game.
The Patriots scouted the Texans well and it showed and they had both the Texans’ offense and defense scrambling for answers.
- Anyone Besides Watt?
J.J. Watt did not register a sack but was all over Tom Brady when throwing the football. Besides Whitney Mercilus recording the Texans only sack of the game, there is no one else getting close to the quarterback. Connor Barwin only had 1 quarterback hit and he was supposed to be the new rush threat for the Texans this season. The team is still waiting for a pulse from Barwin. The Texans lack of pass rush should be a huge concern and they are not helping the back end of the defense in coverage. The Texans in 2011 were successful because they were able to collapse the pocket, but maybe the lack of Brian Cushing has hurt the pass rush more than we know.
Kevin Walter and Lestar Jean had some key drops on third downs that could have shifted the game in favor of the Texans early in the game. In games like these, there is small room for error and key drops set the Texans up for tough sledding for the remainder of the game. Jean dropped a key pass on the opening drive that would have been a big gain and 1st down, but was all for not when the ball slipped through his hands. As for Walter, who is usually sure handed, he dropped a key 4th down pass that hit him in the numbers. These are plays the Texans are going to have to make to compete in the playoffs. Let’s see if they can correct these little but huge game mistakes.
- Foster and Tate
Despite Foster being a touchdown machine, he has been slipping and sliding all over the field at home and the road. As for Ben Tate, he has been back for a game since injuring his hamstring but has been struggling for playing time. Both running backs are big pieces in the Texans offense but have been after thoughts at times in this offense. Call it a questionable right side of the offensive line, they are too good of players to be performing the way they have. The Texans need to figure out a way to run the football efficiently and get Foster and Tate involved in the offense.
- Holding the Line
Best thing about this situation, the Texans hold their destiny in their hands and have a chance to secure home field advantage the entire playoffs if they run the table. It is very attainable but they have to get back on track against their last divisional foe whom they must face twice withing the next three weeks, the playoff hungry Indianapolis Colts. Three wins and the Texans are sitting good and the road to New Orleans goes through Houston. There is a good chance that the Texans will have to keep the throttle down to reach that goal. At 11-2, the Texans are defying the odds and being at this point in their season with this record is a problem plenty of NFL teams would like to have.
You can follow Patrick on Twitter. He is the Editor of State of the Texans.