Best and Worst: Patriots 27, Texans 20
FOXBORO -- The Patriots hit the ground running with an impressive (and not as close as the score indicates) performance against a Houston team that's expected to be an AFC contender. Here's the highlights -- and lowlights -- of the victory.
BEST ARGUMENT AGAINST OTAs
After a Deshaun Watson fumble on the Texans first play from scrimmage, the Patriots took over inside the Houston 19. Three plays later, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski from 21 yards away for a touchdown. Gronk beat linebacker Zach Cunningham and assisting safety Kareem Jackson on the play.
Gronk sexed up his post-TD celebration with a little jazz hands action while high-stepping across the back of the end zone leading to a windmill spike. Well-executed.
RP . . . OH NO
Talk about born under a bad sign, for the Texans to open their offensive season with a fumbled exchange on the first play is just … it’s just. It’s just like what happened when the Texans came here a few years aback when Jacoby Brissett was in for Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo and committed so many special teams miscues, they were out of the game in the first half.
WHO NEEDS WIDEOUTS?
James Develin had a pair of first-quarter receptions from Tom Brady which, given the team’s cycling through veteran wide receiver options in the offseason, seemed an amusing development. Patriots WRs caught six of Brady’s 16 first-half completions.
Deshaun Watson eluded a first-quarter safety by flinging a pass at the back of his tight end Jordan Thomas as he was being brought down by Malcom Brown. Thomas wasn’t looking on the play but the fact he was an eligible receiver meant there was no grounding. Still, it should have been “in the grasp” since Watson was bottled up and falling.
Riley McCarron fair caught a punt at the Patriots 6. Seemed like not the best idea.
Late in the first, Tom Brady tried to hit James White on a little crossing route. But Texans defensive lineman Angelo Blackson tipped it so it was redirected behind White and into the arms of Tyrann Mathieu (pictured), allowing the Texans to take over at the Patriots 17
Cordarelle Patterson got whistled for an illegal shift that turned a third-and-1 into a third-and-6. That was the play that preceded the Brady interception. Patterson spent a series watching from the bench after that.
BADGERING HIS TEAMMATES
On a 12-yard touchdown early in the second, the Texans blew a coverage on running back James White leaving him virtually uncovered while Houston double-teamed tight end Dwayne Allen. Mathieu was seen unloading on teammate Kevin Johnson on the Texans bench.
DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THEY PAY ME?
Stephon Gilmore stole an end-zone pick from Erik Rowe late in the second quarter as Deshaun Watson made the silly mistake of throwing a punt on second-and-3 from the Patriots 42.
WE RAN A PLAY BEFORE YOU CAME TO ME . . .
After a spectacular catch down the seam by Rob Gronkowski late in the first half, the ball both moved and was pinned to the ground after Gronkowski seemed to control it. Given the effing around the league did with the catch rule, it would have been interesting to see if the play stood or not. But the Patriots got the next play off before the officials called for a challenge (there was 1:05 remaining) or the Texans called timeout to plead for a call. Referee Tony Corrente, who’d left his mic open, was heard explaining, “They ran a play before you came to me.”
Philip Dorsett had four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in the first half. It was a very solid contribution from a wideout the Patriots needed to make a contribution.
Gronk made a catch in the seam early in the second half and had loads of room to run but had the ball punched out. During the fumble return, Patriots running back Jeremy Hill had his left knee fallen on by fullback James Develin. The injury looked like bad news.