Patriots

Patriots takeaways: Nick Folk clutch again as Pats beat Texans 25-22

Patriots

It wasn't easy or pretty, but the New England Patriots picked up a much-needed win against the Houston Texans in their Week 5 game at NRG Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots trailed 22-9 in the second half but took advantage of poor Texans special teams and some costly Houston penalties to earn a 25-22 victory.

New England's first and only lead of the game came with 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter when kicker Nick Folk converted on a 21-yard field goal. It was his fourth field goal of the day.

The Pats improve to 2-3 with the win. They will return to Foxboro and host a very good Dallas Cowboys team at Gillette Stadium in Week 6.

Here are five takeaways from Patriots-Texans.

1) Matthew Judon was worth the money

Not many of the veterans the Patriots brought in during their free agent spending spree have met expectations so far, but Judon is one of them. 

The former Pro Bowl linebacker has arguably been the team's best player on either side of the ball this season. Judon tallied two sacks against the Texans, giving him 6.5 for the season, which is one more than Chase Winovich had when he led the Patriots in 2020. Browns star Myles Garrett entered Week 4 as the league leader in sacks with six.

One of Judon's sacks came on a third-and-goal for the Texans with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. It forced Houston to settle for a field goal.

2) Run game bounces back

After tallying negative-one rushing yards in last week's loss to the Buccaneers, the Patriots' run game bounced back with 126 yards (4.2 per carry) and a touchdown. 

 

Starting running back Damien Harris found the end zone in the second quarter -- his first score since Week 2. He also fumbled at the goal line in the second quarter. It was Harris' second red zone fumble of the season. Harris finished with 58 yards on 14 attempts (4.1 per carry), plus the touchdown. However, he was forced to leave the game twice due to a chest injury. 

Veteran running back Brandon Bolden played more snaps than normal because of Harris' injury, and his biggest carry came at the perfect time -- a 24-yard gain on the game-winning drive.

The Texans ranked 28th in rush yards allowed per game and were giving up 4.5 yards per carry entering Sunday. The Patriots had a favorable matchup and the rushing attack took advantage of it.

3) Hunter Henry finally finding his groove

Henry is starting to develop pretty good chemistry with Mac Jones. 

The veteran tight end tallied six receptions for 75 yards -- both season highs -- including a 13-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Henry also had a key third down reception on the Patriots' go-ahead scoring drive late in the final quarter.

Henry now has back-to-back games with five-plus receptions and a touchdown. After a slow start to the season, one of the Patriots' marquee free agent acquisitions is starting to make a profound impact on offense.

4) Pass defense struggles vs. rookie QB

Davis Mills came into Sunday having thrown one touchdown and four interceptions in his last two games, and yet he looked like a world beater against the Patriots defense.

The rookie quarterback from Stanford completed 21 of 29 pass attempts for 312 yards with three touchdowns and zero turnovers. He found wide receiver Chris Moore for a 67-yard score in the second quarter despite the Patriots' two-best defensive backs -- safety Devin McCourty and cornerback J.C. Jackson -- in coverage.

The Patriots improved to 23-6 against rookie quarterbacks in Bill Belichick's 22 seasons as head coach with their win Sunday, but Mills gave one of the best performances of any first-year player over that span:

5) Nick Folk is the Patriots' MVP

The Patriots have struggled to score touchdowns in 2021, and they only scored two on Sunday. The reason why they've had a chance to win every game this season is Nick Folk. The veteran kicker made all four of his field goal attempts against the Texans, including two from 52 yards out. His 21-yard field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter secured New England's 25-22 victory.

Folk leads the league with 14 field goals made. He's missed only one attempt all season -- the 56-yarder at the end of last week's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Folk has been successful on 40 of his last 41 field goal attempts for the Patriots. That's about as clutch as it gets.