|12.10.12 at 11:39 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots made an emphatic statement Monday night with a 42-14 rout of the Texans, moving to 10-3 on the season. It was the seventh consecutive win for New England, who dominated the highly regarded Texans in pretty much every aspect of the game: Tom Brady finished 21-for-35 for 296 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Stevan Ridley had 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Brandon Lloyd had seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown and Aaron Hernandez had eight catches (on 11 targets) for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
Houston. which came into the game with an 11-1 mark — the best record of any visiting team to come into Gillette Stadium in the month of December — was sluggish for most of the night and never managed to get on track. Quarterback Matt Schaub finished the game 19-for-32 for 232 yards with no touchdowns and one pick. (He was relieved midway through the fourth quarter by backup quarterback T.J. Yates.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
‘¢The Patriots took it to the Texans right out of the gate, scoring on their first three drives and never allowing Houston to seize control. New England was up 14-0 after one quarter — with the first on a pass play to Hernandez, the second coming on a sweet looking deep ball to Lloyd — and 21-0 at halftime, and while there were a few anxious moments in the second and third quarter, the Patriots were in control the rest of the night. New England played like a team that was sick and tired of hearing about the greatness of the Texans, and it showed as they put the hammer down on Houston and gave them something to think about if they meet again in the postseason.
‘¢Vince Wilfork was immense in the middle for the New England defense, continually blowing up the Houston running game and not letting Texans running back Arian Foster do much of anything at all — Foster finished with 15 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown, with much of it coming after the game was out of reach. In that same vein, Andre Johnson statistically had an impressive line (eight catches for 95 yards), but was never really a factor on the evening as Aqib Talib did a nice job holding him in check in the first half.
‘¢While he did display some feistiness throughout the evening — including an awesome forced fumble in the fourth quarter after chasing down Danny Woodhead from behind — the Patriots were able to do a good job minimizing the impact of All-World defensive lineman J.J. Watt. When the game was in doubt, Watt was shut down — he didn’t have a sack, pass defensed or quarterback hit over the course of the first half. And while he remained active over the course of the game, he finished without a sack for the first time since a Nov. 11 win over the Bears.
WHAT WENT WRONG
‘¢At the end of the second and start of the third quarter, the offense got a little bogged down — after scoring on their first three drives of the night, the Patriots had drives of three, four, three and six plays. They broke through with their first touchdown of the second half on a 63-yard touchdown strike from Brady to Donte Stallworth midway through the third quarter.
‘¢Talib — who spent most of the night in single coverage against Johnson — went down with a hip injury at the end of the first half and didn’t return to the game. He was seen on the sideline throughout the second half bouncing around and displaying a good range of motion, but he certainly bears watching when it comes to the injury report on Wednesday. In addition, linebacker Brandon Spikes looked to be hobbled for part of the night, while cornerback Alfonzo Dennard suffered a hamstring injury late and did not return. We also saw cornerback Kyle Arrington limp off after a good night.
|12.10.12 at 10:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The third quarter is done here at Gillette Stadium, and it appears that the Texans are done as well. New England holds a commanding 28-7 lead on Houston. Here are a few notes from the third quarter.
‘¢The Patriots offense struggled at the end of the second quarter, and those issues continued at the start of the third when they were forced to punt after not being able to move the ball — after scoring on their first three drives of the night, the Patriots had drives of three, four, three, and six plays. New England broke through with its first scoring drive of the second half – a five-play, 74-yard drive that was highlighted by a 63-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Donte’ Stallworth that gave New England a 28-0 lead with 9:49 left in the third quarter. The play was the second-longest pass play of the season for the Patriots.
‘¢After four punts, an interception and two failed fourth-down attempts, the Texans had a drive end with points midway through the third quarter. It was Houston’s finest offensive series of the night: a seven-play, 88-yard drive that took 3:37 and ended with a one-yard run from Arian Foster to make it 28-7. The big play of the drive came when Matt Schaub hit James Casey on a 30-yard pass play that got the Texans down to the New England 2 yard-line.
‘¢The Patriots closed the third quarter on an impressive series, as Brady steered the New England offense to the Houston 27 with a nice sequence, including a 14-yard pass play to Brandon Lloyd, who finished the third quarter with five catches for 78 yards.
|12.10.12 at 10:03 pm ET|
FOXBORO — We’re at halftime at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 21-0 lead. Here are a few notes:
‘¢The Patriots are in command, as New England hasn’t allowed Houston to do much of anything at all. The Patriots have three touchdowns, while the closest the Texans have come to the end zone came when Matt Schaub was picked off throwing for the end zone on a play that started on the New England 21-yard line. Tom Brady is 13-for-19 for 165 yards and three touchdowns, while Schaub is 12-for-23 for 159 yards, no touchdowns and one pick.
‘¢J.J. Watt was able to make his presence felt on the Patriots’ first series of the second quarter when he busted through the line and delivered a ringing shot on Brady. The quarterback was able to get the ball out, but Aaron Hernandez was hit two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Later on the drive, the Patriots got some help as a questionable pass interference call kept New England’s drive alive, and the Patriots cashed in when Tom Brady hit Aaron Hernandez with a four-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 with 11:01 left in the second quarter.
‘¢The Texans continued to struggle on offense, as they went three-and-out on their next series, with the defensive highlight for the Patriots coming when Vince Wilfork (who is dominating in the trenches) batted down a third-down pass from Schaub, leading to a Texans punt. Houston got the ball back after a New England three-and-out and had its best offensive sequence of the first two quarters. Schaub and the Texans maneuvered into New England territory with a nice, steady drive, but turned it over on downs when they couldn’t convert a 4th and five at the New England 33.
‘¢A nice defensive stand by the Texans forced another New England punt late in the quarter, and the Houston offense got things started with a 23-yard completion to Arian Foster. But the Texans couldn’t convert on another fourth down chance, giving the ball to the Patriots as the quarter came to a close.
|12.10.12 at 9:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The first quarter is in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots have a 14-0 lead. Here are a few quick notes.
‘¢The Patriots won the toss and deferred, choosing to kick off to start the game.
‘¢It wasn’t a great start for either team — the Texans had a 12-yard run from Arian Foster called back because of an illegal formation penalty, while the Patriots’ defense had to call an early time out because they had 12 men on the field.
‘¢The Patriots defense showed a few interesting wrinkles in their first defensive series — while Aqib Talib is working almost exclusively on Andre Johnson, they are also utilizing Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety. Up front, Chandler Jones (who was active for the first time since last month because of an ankle injury he suffered early against the Colts) didn’t start, but did see his first action of the game late in the quarter. Instead, New England went with Rob Ninkovich and Trevor Scott at defensive end, and Vince Wilfork and Brandon Deaderick at defensive tackle.
‘¢On Houston’s second series, Ninkovich and Scott shared a sack off a busted play-action fake. Later in the drive, Devin McCourty made a great read on a Matt Schaub pass play for wide receiver Kevin Walter — Schaub thought he had Walter in the end zone, but McCourty made a big play on the ball, reading Schaub, who locked onto his receiver. McCourty took the ball out of the end zone to the New England 18.
‘¢The Patriots’ offense was living a little dangerous on its first drive of the evening. After Welker’s big return, New England picked up a key first down to help keep the drive alive, a 25-yard pass from Brady to Wes Welker got the Patriots into the Houston red zone. After a few squeamish moments because of a Stevan Ridley fumble (recovered by Aaron Hernandez), Tom Brady found Hernandez with a seven-yard scoring strike to make it 7-0 with 9:27 left in the first quarter.
‘¢A 37-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd on a tremendous play-action fake to Ridley — one where both Texans safeties bit hard — gave New England a 14-0 lead. (Lloyd caught a 14-yarder earlier in the drive on third down to keep the chains moving.)
‘¢As for J.J. Watt, he was a disruptive force, but his overall impact was minimized by some solid work by the New England offensive line (as well as tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who worked as a blocker). Watt was moved from side to side throughout the first quarter, but hasn’t had a sack.
|12.10.12 at 8:31 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Twitter was all abuzz Monday with a comedic tweet from tycoon Donald Trump.
Trump, a friend of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and frequent guest of the Patriots tweeted good luck to his favorite NFL team on Twitter.
One problem, he was a little off on the name of the Patriots future hall of fame coach, calling him “Bob Belichick” on Twitter.
Trump, obviously aware of his comedic gaffe, corrected it, deleting the original tweet.
|12.10.12 at 7:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light, who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2010), Troy Brown (2008) and Ted Johnson (2005) to receive the honor.
Light was his typical personable self in answering questions.
On not facing J.J. Watt tonight and the season for the Patriots:
‘You know, there are a lot of people I’m glad I don’t face anymore. My life is a lot more relaxed. I miss a lot of things about the game of football, and tonight’s an awesome opportunity to come back and watch these guys do what they do. Of course it’s an exciting season, as it always is. For me, it’s just an opportunity to share with my family and friends what has been just an awesome journey.’
On how fitting it is to be honored on a wet, rainy night:
‘You know, it’s fitting, isn’t it? ‘¦ If it’s rainy and nasty and mucky, it’s a good day to be honored if you’re an offensive lineman.’
On pulling pranks:
‘Most of them, we can’t talk about. And most of them I can’t even tell my own family, which is horrible. We had a lot of fun. ‘¦ Poor Dante, he had to suffer through quite a few little issues within our offensive line room. I think the best thing you can say about it is if you do it the right way, you never get one person in a negative manner. It lets you do things that kind of bring everybody together. And for me, when you’re all laughing at a time when, for the most part, we don’t laugh a whole lot when we’re working, those are the moments that stick in your mind.’
Looking at what this team could accomplish, do you miss that?
‘I do. I think this is the most exciting time of the year. We always talked about December when we played, and there’s obviously a ton of pressure when you get to December. I think the good teams always find a way to focus on a whole other level. It’s cool when you see it all come together; you go through the ups and downs of a season, and you’re battling injuries and battling questions marks here and there. But when you get to December and you know that you lay it all on the line, and December is going to lead to January, and January is going to lead to an opportunity to reach the ultimate goal, that’s an awesome time.’
|12.10.12 at 5:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The 11-1 Texans can all but clinch a first-round bye and close in on a No. 1 seed in the AFC while the 9-3 Patriots can take a huge step toward locking up a first-round bye with a victory on Monday night football.
The Patriots have the No. 1 offense in the NFL and have scored at least 20 points in 11 of their 12 games this season.
The Texans have NFL defensive player of the year favorite J.J. Watt, who enters with 16.5 sacks, second to Aldon Smith.
In addition to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, the Patriots will have another running back weapon at their disposal, as Brandon Bolden was added to the 53-man active roster. He hasn’t played since injuring his knee on Oct. 14 and is coming off a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL PED policy.
So many variables. What will be the biggest?
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