FOXBORO -- To be the man, you've got to beat the man.
The 11-1 Houston Texans -- the AFC's top dog -- entered New England on Monday night looking to beat the defending AFC Champion Patriots.
It wasn't a playoff game at Gillette Stadium. But it certainly was a chance for the Texans to silence any critics that may exist or continue to "disrespect" them. They had something to prove.
But after the Patriots' 42-14 rout of the Texans in the national spotlight, the team with the best record in the NFL learned something on Monday night.
They are not the Patriots.
"It doesn't feel like we have 11 wins," said Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips after the loss. "It doesn't feel like we have more wins than New England right now."
They do though. The Patriots are now 10-3, and are currently in line to be the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. So technically, the Patriots still aren't the top dog in the conference. But after Monday night's debacle, the Texans realize, neither are they.
"They showed us what championship ball is," said Houston linebacker Bradie James. "I think we put too much focus on this game as just a huge game, and not doing our approach as far as just going 1-0. And sometimes guys get a little tight, things get a little out of hand. But the Patriots played lights out in the first half. That's what it takes. I think they showed us what it takes to be a champion.
"Man, we just didn't play the way that we wanted to," added James. "But like I said, we got that example, as far as the intensity, the way you have to come out and you have to play when you come into somebody's house. These guys have been good for so long, and so, we know now. We know. And it's up to us to just man up, take this one. We've got to take it on the chin, and get ready to go back to work."
Quarterback Matt Schaub described the loss as "humbling" afterwards. He finished the game 19-of-32 for 232 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception.
His first-quarter interception that ended up in the hands of Devin McCourty led to a 14-0 Patriots lead. But to some, this one was over well before that.
"We got our tails kicked," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak.
"I mean, the first play of the game we line up wrong," said Kubiak. "So that's really concerning. You know what you're fixing to do on the first play of the game for about three days, and then you line up wrong and get a penalty. That's concerning."
Houston received the ball first, but before they even could snap the ball, they got penalized for an illegal formation.
"Before we knew it, it was 21-0," said James. "We had to settle down and get back to doing some things. We had to stop them on third down. We were not getting off the field on third down. And that was our achilles heel, especially in that first half, first quarter."
It was over early, for sure. And the Texans learned that, regardless of their record, they're still not the top dog in the AFC. Not with the way the Patriots beat them on Monday night.
And Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson summed it all up perfectly.
"They just gave gave us a good ass-whooping," said Johnson. "That's pretty much it."