FOXBORO -- If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, my aunt would be my uncle.
Or something like that. Anyway, Jadeveon Clowney chose to put a hopeful spin on his team's 34-16 loss to the Patriots by playing some make-believe.
"If you take them plays away (the long passes Tom Brady completed), take the kick return away, we beat them," said the Texans linebacker.
PATRIOTS 34, TEXANS 16
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Yes. Maybe they would have. There's no denying the Texans defense played very well against the Patriots and that New England was fairly fortunate to have almost every prayer of a Brady throw answered by a reception.
But they happened and the Texans are going home. Not without a measure of satisfaction on the defensive side of the ball, though.
This team that was raked over by Jacoby Brissett in a 27-0 loss in September showed how much better its defense had become in forcing Brady into a pair of picks and an 18-for-38 night.
"I think we did good," said Clowney. "Hit him when we wanted to. We were getting to him. We were messing him up disguising. Moving around. I don't think -- what was he like, three-for-something on third down? (5-for-16, actually, but still not great.) Yeah, when you're playing that good you expect to win games. [We] just didn't get the outcome that we want."
Clowney was draped on Brady a number of times. Once, he hauled Brady down after Brady threw the ball away and the quarterback was irate, asking for a flag he didn't get. Later, after Clowney tackled Brady after he'd released the ball, Clowney was flagged.
"He was rattled," said Clowney. "We [were] rattling him. Like I said, third-down conversions, what [did] they have? We had them right where we wanted them on third downs. We were getting them in third-and-longs. He was throwing the ball up, getting deep catches, man."
Those downfield throws were somewhat the result of the Texans doing a good job gumming up the short and intermediate areas.
"We understand he loves the short stuff so we just added a little extra into the coverage," said linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who was as big a factor as Clowney. "That's about it. Made him hold the ball and got a couple of sacks but that wasn't enough."
How vital was it to get heat on Brady?
"Huge," said Mercilus. "If you don't get pressure on Brady he's gonna tear you apart. But he still tore us apart in the second half. All the best to the Patriots. You gotta get pressure on Brady, if you don't he'll pick you apart. Bottom line."
The picking apart wasn't complete. There were more instances where Brady had to pick himself up. But the Patriots move on while the Texans defense can only wonder what if . . .