FOXBORO — Leading up to this match-up during the week, many were calling this game possibly the biggest in Texans history. Houston has never taken one loss this far into a season, and traveling to face a Patriots team with a 9-3 record on Monday Night Football  only upped the ante.
But it was clear who the superior team was on Monday night in Foxboro.
There’s probably a lot to be said about experience; the Patriots have it in December, January and February. The Texans, not as much.
Since the Texans and Patriots now account for two of the top three teams in the AFC, the likelihood of them meeting again down the playoff road is a high one. Whether this game takes place in Houston or Foxboro is yet to be seen, if it happens at all. And if it does, several members of the Texans said they now know what to look for from this veteran New England team, and themselves as well.
‘It’s a teaching moment,’ defensive end Whitney Mercilus said after the game. ‘This is a good team and we can’t slack off. Too many penalties and things like that; beating ourselves. We’ve got to be able to move the ball offensively and defensively. We’ve got to get to the passer and help out our secondary. We can’t get gashed in the run. We’ve got to get better.’
When asked why he thought the outcome might be different should the they meet again, defensive end Antonio Smith paused for a few seconds thinking about the question, and then said, ‘We know what to expect.’
‘Now you know what you’re dealing with,’ he said. ‘There aren’t any surprises. This team hadn’t faced a Patriots team in their house this late in the year when it’s playoffs coming since I’ve been here. I think the last time we beat them was in our house. And hopefully we can get our stuff together and win the rest of these games so that they’ve got to come in our house. It’s just another battle; we’ll see how it is then.’
If the Patriots and Texans do meet again in the playoffs, there need to be some major changes, according to Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. The Patriots dominated just about every facet of the game, save for net punting (Donnie Jones averaged nearly 50 yards per punt on seven appearances).
Texans safety Danieal Manning has been a part of championship teams in the past, and thinks that, despite the beating tonight, his team has what it takes to be a serious contender come January. He said that the next time these two teams potentially meet will be different because they have seen everything the Patriots have to offer. The Patriots, on the other hand, didn’t get a good look at the real Texans tonight.
‘They came out and hit us with everything they had, and that’s what you do if you’re going to be a championship team ‘ you don’t leave anything like that,’ Manning said. ‘ We’ve seen their whole hand. We didn’t play our best ball, and they did. So I think that definitely the game will be different.’
When Talib went down about a minute before the teams headed to the locker rooms, the duty of covering the 10-year veteran fell to a committee consisting of Kyle Arrington , Alfonzo Dennard and safety help.
Johnson caught half of his passes in the third quarter, but was rendered ineffectual by the Patriots secondary. After the game, Johnson seemed sure that he and his team would get a second chance at redemption.
‘We’ll run into them again, and we’ll see how we respond then,’ he said.