Patriots

Patriots-Texans: The Complete Review

Patriots-Texans: The Complete Review

At least we didn’t have to wait to see how much “the peripherals” mattered when it came to determining what kind of offseason hangover remained. Just 190 seconds into the 2018 season, Tom Brady threw a 21-yard laser to Rob Gronkowski who plucked the pass, eluded two defenders and got in over the pylon to make it 7-0. At that point and by game’s end it was abundantly clear that the two best players on the field were the two guys who went their own way all spring and most of the summer. So call it refutation. Welcome refutation. The Texans are who they’ve always been and not what I thought they were. And the Patriots are -- most likely -- the same as they ever were. Especially for the 60 minutes of football they play each week.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAD THE BALL

If a team can’t figure out a way to devote one player at all times to dealing with Rob Gronkowski, then it deserves what it gets. And Houston got Gronked but good as Brady threw to him eight times and found him seven for 123 yards and that game-opening touchdown. Time and again down the seam the Texans gave Gronk too much room. Or maybe they just thought that Brady wouldn’t throw it to him when they had him semi-covered. Gronk thought the same. Of his diving catch late in the first half, Gronk said, “I was running up the seam I had two guys on me and when I saw the ball in the air I literally thought first thing, “What is Tom [Brady] thinking?” When that ball was in the air I had a guy grabbing me and I was just like, “I’ve just got to go for it.” I can’t let them make a play on it, so just went up for it, made the catch. I did make the catch. I don’t know how. When I went to the ground I had it stable in my hand, so it was definitely a catch, but Tom went up to the line really quick just to make sure.” Brady finished 26 for 39 for 277 with three TDs and a pick off a tipped pass. He got great protection for about 70 percent of the game before things got hairy later on. Still, the Patriots turned away the Texans athletic front-seven in impressive fashion and Brady did a good job getting more from Phillip Dorsett (7 targets, 7 catches, 66 yards) than anyone really has. Tough blow losing Jeremy Hill, whose running style fit perfectly. Rex Burkhead did the heavy lifting (18 carries for 64 yards) and James Develin wound up with four catches for 22 yards, the final one being an important 10-yard pickup. The Patriots worked to get Cordarelle Patterson some touches in space. He didn’t make much happen but there was enough there to keep working that angle.

WHEN THE TEXANS HAD THE BALL

The Patriots defense held the Texans to 2 for 11 on third down. The rush and coverage were synced up nicely in the first half especially when they held Houston to 141 yards of offense and harassed Watson into a 5 for 13 start with a pick. Watson was bothered in the pocket and the Patriots got to him for three sacks and forced several inaccurate throws on the move. A lot of credit goes to pass rush discipline on the edges and what appeared to be a more aggressive effort to disrupt Watson as opposed to living in fear of the scramble. Even though the last 10 minutes weren’t great, the secondary did a very good job most of the game disrupting receivers as the ball arrived. DeAndre Hopkins was targeted 11 times, caught eight and finished with 78 yards receiving, less than what you’d expect from him with eight catches. Ja’Whaun Bentley, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Dont’a Hightower, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy and Adrian Clayborn were a big part of the success up front.

THE KICKING GAME

The Patriots put Riley McCarron back to field punts. He fair caught one at the Patriots 6. Not ideal. He muffed another one in the fourth to set up a Texans touchdown that closed the lead to seven. Even less ideal. Punter Ryan Allen bailed the Pats out with a terrific punt late that was downed at the Texans 1 by Jonathan Jones. Allen had a very good day. The Patriots kick coverage wasn’t terrific. Tyler Ervin averaged 31.2 yards on his returns. Stephen Gostkowski was good from 35 and 39.

PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT

Jeremy Hill suffered a knee injury. Worst case, it’s an ACL. Best case it’s an MCL.

TEXANS MEDICAL REPORT

Kevin Johnson and Seantrel Henderson were forced from the game for the Texans.

TEXANS HAD TO STOP...

James White. White is the Patriots best threat when it comes to creating short-area separation in the passing game. Without potent threats on the perimeter and attention being paid to Gronk, White should get some 1-on-1s he can feast on.

AND WHAT HAPPENED...

I figured the Texans would devote two guys to erasing Gronk and that would leave a lot on White to make people miss in open space. The Texans were awful on Gronk. White hurt them as well with four catches for 38 yards and a 12-yard touchdown.

PATRIOTS HAD TO STOP...

Deshaun Watson. The pass rush just can’t get overly rambunctious and leave creases for Watson to wander into and buy time to set his feet and survey. As improved as the New England defense is, they still don’t have great coverage at the linebacker level and Watson could feast on those restarts.

AND WHAT HAPPENED...

A combination of patience, discipline and aggressiveness. That’s how Deatrich Wise described the Patriots approach to dealing with the Texans quarterback. Watson ran eight times for 40 yards and went 17 for 34 for 16 yards with a TD pass and a pick.

THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE

“Guys that are big, fast, athletic, can throw the ball all over the field, there's only a couple of them in the league and so to have them on your team would be unusual. You just do the best you can on that and try to give the defense the best look as you can at what they do. Sometimes that might be putting a receiver or somebody like that at quarterback … if you've got guys that are unique players that have special skills then you can't replicate them. Neither can anybody else except for the team that has that guy. You just try to do the best you can and take what you have and try to simulate it.” – Bill Belichick on the difficulty of preparing for Deshaun Watson.  

A-plus job of preparing for Watson this week. Maybe he isn’t where he will be later in the season as he comes back from that ACL but the Patriots did a very good job hemming him in and forcing less than accurate throws.

THAT SUMS IT UP TEXANS STYLE

 “People talk about the later parts of his career. I don’t really see where his – you know, I don’t know when his career’s going to be over because he’s playing at a – I mean, he was the MVP last year, you know what I mean? So, like when is his – I don’t even know what the definition of latter part of this guy’s career would be. He’s the MVP of the league last year.” – Texans coach Bill O’Brien, flummoxed by a question about Tom Brady in the autumn of his career.  

One of the biggest plays in the game was Brady finding James Develin for 10 yards on a second-and-8 play after the two-minute warning. Brady bought time, wandered around, scrambled and then threw a dart on the run to Develin for a first down that forced the Texans to burn all their timeouts.

THE CREW AND THE LINE

Tony Corrente and the boys were the crew in town for this one. I always confuse Pete Morelli and Tony Corrente so this isn’t as bad as I initially thought. Pete Morelli could screw up a walk to the mailbox. The Patriots were favored by 6.5 and the total was 50.

Patriots cover and this is an under. Meanwhile, Tony’s crew … a gentleman’s C. They should have done a booth review on Gronk’s catch late in the first half. They appeared to severely bungle one of the two holds on Stephon Gilmore in the fourth quarter … there were some egregious offensive holds going on that appeared to draw flags but got lost in the flood. Also, the helmet clash that drove Texans corner Kevin Johnson from the game was an instance where both players lowered and hit with the crown and neither could be described as “bracing.” I’m sure there were other mistakes. The penalties were even, six each.

Top NFL Draft tight end prospect Hunter Bryant praises 'GOAT' Tom Brady

Top NFL Draft tight end prospect Hunter Bryant praises 'GOAT' Tom Brady

The New England Patriots need to upgrade their talent and depth at tight end before the 2020 season, and a good place to address this roster weakness is in the NFL Draft.

The 2020 class of tight ends isn't as deep as the group of wide receivers available, but there are still a few really exciting tight end prospects for teams to draft in the first couple of rounds. One of those players is Washington Huskies star Hunter Bryant, who Pro Football Focus ranked as the top tight end in this draft.

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He also was among the players to speak Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. When asked which quarterback in league history would he most want to catch a touchdown pass from, Bryant chose the only six-time Super Bowl champion. 

"Any quarterback in history? Probably Tom Brady, because he's the GOAT," Bryant told reporters, as transcribed by 247Sports. "He's the best that's ever done it. He's a great competitor, and I like how knowledgable he is in the game. So I have a lot of respect for him."

Bryant also told reporters he had an informal meeting with a Patriots scout.

Who knows, maybe Bryant will get an opportunity to catch passes from Brady next season? The Patriots are projected to have 12 picks (including compensatory selections) in April's draft, and tight is among the team's primary needs after getting lackluster offensive production at the position last season. 

Bryant isn't likely to be a first-round pick, but it's hard to imagine he lasts too long on Day 2 when the second and third rounds unfold. 

He set career highs with 52 receptions, 825 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns for Washington in 2019. Bryant tallied at least five receptions and 80-plus receiving yards in each of the last four games he played for the Huskies. 

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Thaddeus Moss dreams of catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady just like his father did

Thaddeus Moss dreams of catching touchdown passes from Tom Brady just like his father did

Would the New England Patriots consider drafting Randy Moss' son Thaddeus in the upcoming NFL Draft in April? It's possible.

The younger Moss, who helped Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers to a college football title this past season, could address a glaring need at tight end for the Patriots. New England gave Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo a shot last season after Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement, but none really gained the trust of quarterback Tom Brady.

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The 21-year-old was just nine when his father joined the Patriots in 2007 via a trade that sent a fourth-round pick to the Oakland Raiders, and he'll never forget the memories he made while watching his father take the field at Gillette Stadium.

“I don’t know if I’d say [I have] relationships with anybody," Moss said, according to WEEI's Andy Hart. "I’ve talked to Coach [Bill] Belichick before. I’ve talked to Coach [Robert] Kraft [Patriots owner] before. Probably my most fond memories is the undefeated season that they had, obviously they didn’t finish it the way they wanted to. That and on top of that I was in the facility once or twice before. Meeting Tom Brady when I was younger. I was sitting there star struck. Walking down the hallway seeing Tedy Bruschi, seeing Coach [Mike] Vrabel walk down the hallway when I was younger. Those are probably the most fond memories that I have.”

Moss, who was a sophomore last season, put together a solid year for the Tigers in 2019 with 47 receptions for 570 yards and four touchdowns. He was even more impressive in the national championship game against Clemson, adding five receptions for 36 yards and two touchdowns while his father cheered him on from the stands.

The younger Moss could go from one championship title-winning quarterback to another if the Patriots were to draft him, and he admitted that catching touchdown passes from Brady, like his father before him, would be incredible.

“It would mean a lot,” Moss said of the possibility to catch passes from Brady. “Just to catch a touchdown pass period in the NFL would mean a lot. But to catch from Tom Brady knowing that he threw a good amount of touchdown passes to my father, it would be a good story.”