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Martellus Bennett focused on keeping it fun with Patriots 09.23.16 at 5:24 am ET
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Martellus Bennett speaks with the media after Thursday's game. (WEEI.com photo)

Martellus Bennett speaks with the media after Thursday’s game. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Martellus Bennett made a bold statement after Thursday night’s game.

The occasionally quirky tight end, in his first year with the Patriots, proclaimed himself to be the “leader of fun” on the New England roster. On a team that has Rob “Yo Soy Fiesta” Gronkowski just across the locker room — a guy with a well-known track record when it comes to enjoying a good time — he’s thrown down the gauntlet.

“I’m kind of like the leader of fun of the team,” Bennett said after Thursday’s 27-0 win over the Texans. “You know, there are a bunch of dudes that do different stuff on the team, I’m like the leader of fun. So my job is to make sure we’re having a good time and keeping the energy up.”

At the very least, with Gronkowski on the sidelines for a sizable portion of the first three games (he barely broke double digits in snaps against the Texans), Bennett represents someone who can inject some levity into things while his fellow tight end works his way back to full strength after dealing with a balky hamstring. To that point, Bennett was seen on the sidelines late in the blowout against the Texans dancing and celebrating when “Jump Around” came on the Gillette Stadium sound system.

“I love that song,” he said with a smile.

“It’s very fun; me and Gronk have a great relationship,” he added when asked about his fellow tight end. “You know, we have a lot of fun together off the field and on the field, so it was good to have my partner and crime out there [Thursday].”

Bennett, who has 10 catches for 138 yards (both good for second on the team behind Julian Edelman) and a touchdown through the first three games, is clearly having a good time and working with youngster Jacoby Brissett has been a highlight. The two spent some time carpooling together earlier in the season, and earlier in the week, Bennett gave Brissett a hard time for “looking like a starting quarterback” in the days before he got the call against the Texans. It was an act, according to Bennett, that included Brissett crossing his legs and drinking coffee while in meetings.

But it’s all good between the two.

“He played very well,” Bennett said of Brissett, who delivered two passes for 10 yards to Bennett on the evening. “We have confidence in all of our quarterbacks and in the way we prepare and the coaches do a great job preparing these guys.

“You know, every day Jacoby comes to work just like he’s a starter and he just prepares and he plays. Whatever his responsibility is that week, he goes out there and does it to the best of his ability. We’re never really worried about that. We all just try to do our job to make his job easier.”

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Rob Gronkowski admits he was limited, but says ‘it feels great just playing football again’ at 12:38 am ET
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Rob Gronkowski played just 12 snaps on Sunday, but was happy to get the win. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski played just 12 snaps on Sunday, but was happy to get the win. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski made his 2016 debut Thursday night against the Texans after missing the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 15 against the Bears in a joint practice.

It wasn’t the debut he may have imagined, as he didn’t catch a pass on just one target and played 12 of the 59 offensive plays, including only three in the second half, but that didn’t matter as he was just happy to get back out on the field and get a win.

“I was definitely limited, obviously. But, it’s all good,” Gronkowski said. “Just talking to everyone — coaches, myself, the training room. It was just what we thought was just right. We got the win. We’re 3-0, which is amazing. I got to get my feet wet, which felt great just to go out there. I blocked the whole time, but it feels great just playing football again.”

Led by rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Patriots were able to blowout the Texans, 27-0. In his first NFL start, Brissett went 11-for-19 with 103 yards, while rushing for 48 yards on eight carries.

“Super hyped. Super happy for the whole team, especially for Jacoby coming in just a rookie starting,” Gronkowski said. “You have to give hats off to our defense. The way they played, the turnovers, everything. Just unbelievable.”

It was a total team effort in the win as all three phases contributed in picking up the third win of the season and being 3-0, despite not having Tom Brady and even Jimmy Garoppolo Thursday night.

“It was just a great overall team win,” Gronkowski said. “Just unbelievable aspects in the defense, special teams, offense running the ball. Everyone just did their job and did what they needed to do.”

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Snap Judgments: Jacoby Brissett manages big game, Patriots turn over Texans in romp 09.22.16 at 11:28 pm ET
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Sep 22, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Brissett (7) rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO – The Patriots defense and special teams made things real simple for Jacoby Brissett in his first NFL start.

Special teams forced a pair of turnovers on kickoffs and Brissett ran for a 27-yard touchdown as the Patriots blanked the Texans, 27-0, Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. It was New England’s first shutout since a 28-0 win over the Dolphins in the season finale on Dec. 30, 2012.

Brissett finished 11-of-19 for 103 yards passing while rushing eight times for 48 yards, including his touchdown.

LeGarrette Blount chipped in with his second straight 100-yard game, gaining 105 yards on 24 carries, including a game-sealing 41-yard run to the end zone with 11:00 left in the fourth.

The Patriots mastered the art of field position all night, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ryan Allen. The punter averaged 47.6 yards on seven punts and pinned the Texans inside their 15 six times. The last time was an end-over-end beauty that was downed at the 4-yard line.

The Texans didn’t get into Patriots territory until 1:25 left in the third quarter on a short pass from Brock Osweiler to Lamar Miller that put the ball at the New England 46.

The Texans didn’t run a single play in Patriots territory in the first half. They appeared ready to finally get there when the Texans finally reached midfield at the two minute warning. But on third-and-2 at the 50, Lamar Miller was stopped for no gain and the Patriots continued the defensive streak.

The biggest turning point of the first half was a Charles James fumble on a Stephen Gostkowski kickoff with 2:01 left in the first quarter. On the kick, the Patriots showed their traditional outstanding special teams skills. Clay Harbor went low to tackle and Brandon Bolden punched the ball loose at the Texans 18. The ball came out to the 22 where it was recovered by Duron Harmon.

After a false start by Marcus Cannon, Brissett ran a designed bootleg around the right side. There was no one home for the Texans defense and Brissett ran 27 yards to paydirt and his first career touchdown. On the play, which was perfectly timed, J.J. Watt shot the “A-gap” and looked to have a clear path to the quarterback. But by the time Watt was in the backfield, Brissett was gone.

Brissett finished the first half completing 5-of-8 passes for 59 yards, with his longest completion coming on a 27-yard pitch-and-catch to fellow rookie Malcolm Mitchell, a play that featured horrific tackling from the Texans. The play set up the Patriots for a 24-yard field goal that gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead.

Rob Gronkowski was used conservatively to start the game, playing roughly every other offensive snap. He was targeted in the red zone by Brissett on the play before the field goal. Brissett dropped back but airmailed a pass to the left corner out of Gronkowski’s reach. It was the only time Gronkowski was targeted in the game.

Closing Time note

The Patriots won their 7th straight Thursday game and are now 11-5 on Thursdays.

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Read More: houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski
Jonathan Kraft says Vince Wilfork will ‘always be a Patriot’ and Jacoby Brissett is ‘not along for the ride’ at 8:39 pm ET
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Jonathan Kraft

Jonathan Kraft

FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.

The crowd was paying tribute to Vince Wilfork, who was being shown on the video board in his Texans uniform, getting ready for the game. It will be the second time Wilfork has faced Belichick’s Patriots but the first time Wilfork has returned to Foxboro since leaving after the 2014 season and signing a two-year, $9 million deal.

“They should [applaud] and if we weren’t all talking, I would’ve been applauding, too,” Kraft said. “I love the guy. To me, he’ll always be a Patriot. I can’t wait till we induct him into the [Patriots] Hall because I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion. He was the heart and soul of not just the defense but that locker room for a number of years. He and Bianca were both [great]. They were everything you could want in a football player and his family, on and off the field. It’s amazing to watch what he does at his age. He’s still playing really good football.”

The tribute continued during the game, as with 12:16 left in the first quarter, Wilfork took the field for the first time with the Texans defense. A highlight video was shown and at the end of the 30-second video, Wilfork waved his hand to the crowd in appreciation.

As for when he knew about Jimmy Garoppolo not dressing for the game or when he might be ready to return, Kraft played it coy.

“I don’t know exactly. I guess earlier [Thursday],” Kraft said. “It wasn’t two days ago but to be fair, I wasn’t asking the question two days ago. Earlier today, I asked the question.”

How long might Garoppolo be out?

“We’re going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft said. “I might or I might now but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question.”
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Read More: houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jonathan Kraft
Dont’a Hightower, Jimmy Garoppolo among inactives vs. Texans at 7:06 pm ET
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Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — The following Patriots players are inactive against the Texans Thursday night: quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end A.J. Derby, cornerback Eric Rowe, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, running back D.J Foster and offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper.

Gronkowski will make his season debut after missing the first two games with a hamstring injury, while Hightower will miss his second straight game with a knee injury.

With Garoppolo inactive, Julian Edelman will be the backup quarterback.

Foster and Derby will miss their second game of the season, while Rowe and Cooper haven’t played in a game yet this season.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Dont'a Hightower, Jimmy Garoppolo, Rob Gronkowski,
Rob Gronkowski reportedly will be active vs. Texans at 5:15 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — It appears Rob Gronkowski will make his 2016 debut Thursday night.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the tight end will be active against the Texans. He missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury suffered on Aug. 15 in a joint practice against the Bears.

“I’m feeling better every single day that goes on, every single week,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “That’s all I can ask for. Obviously, you just don’t wake up 100 percent. I’m improving every day. I am satisfied with the improvements and every day I’m getting better.”

It would seem likely having not played yet this season that he will be on a snap count, but nonetheless he’ll be a good target for rookie Jacoby Brissett, who will likely get the start.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

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Scene-setting from Gillette: Ideal weather as Pats host Texans in battle of 2-0 teams at 4:21 pm ET
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IMG_0667

The scene is set for Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO  –  At least the weather is expected to be crystal clear as the Patriots host the Texans at Gillette Stadium to open Week 3 of the NFL season.

Clear skies and a game-time temperature around 70 is expected for the 8:25 p.m. kickoff. It could be chilly by the end of the game as the forecast is calling for temperatures to fall into the low 60s by the fourth quarter.

It will be somewhat humid as the forecast is calling for a relative humidity of 60 percent. But there is no precipitation in the forecast and just a slight breeze out of the south at 5 MPH.

While the weather will be clear the forecast as to who will be the starting quarterback and who will be the backup has been downright cloudy ever since Jimmy Garoppolo’s right shoulder was driven into the Gillette Stadium turf by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso with five minutes left in the first half Sunday.

Making things murkier is the fact the Patriots could be starting a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who was 6-for-9 for 92 yards in his relief effort, marking his NFL debut out of North Carolina State.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the sideline. Ian Rapoport and Courtney Fallon of NFL Network report that Garoppolo is expected to dress and serve as the backup. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports it’s more likely and expected that Garoppolo won’t suit up at all and Julian Edelman will serve as the emergency backup if something happens with Brissett. Garoppolo was officially listed as doubtful on Wednesday’s final injury report.

Either way, as it appears now, Brissett will indeed make his first NFL start.

Another big storyline is expected to be Rob Gronkowski. Rapoport reported early in the day that “there’s a real chance” Gronkowski makes his 2016 season debut after missing the first two games with a strained hamstring. This was later advanced when Lisa Hughes of WBZ-TV and Adam Schefter both confirmed Gronkowski is expected to play. Gronkowski was officially listed as one of six Patriots as questionable heading into tonight’s game.

Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about tonight’s Thursday night game which features the “Color Rush” uniforms both teams will be wearing. Chris Price has the scouting report.

Read More: Bill O'Brien, houston texans, Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo
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