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Sunday Night wrap-up: Deshaun Watson leads Texans over Patriots

The Football Night in America crew shares their Week 14 picks for Sunday Night 7 as the Seahawks and Rams battle in a big NFC West showdown.

The Patriots had given up four touchdown passes all year.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson matched that, and made it more impressive by catching one of them.

The Texans beat the Patriots 28-22, giving that defense the kind of working over they haven’t dealt with this year.

They lost to the Ravens by a larger margin, but that was a running game. Sunday, Watson strafed their pass defense, which no one else had done.

The Texans quarterback finished 18-of-25 for 234 yards and three touchdowns passing.

The finishing touch was by snagging a pass from DeAndre Hopkins on a trick play in the fourth quarter, the kind of capper his performance deserved.

While the Patriots have a Stephon Gilmore to drape on Hopkins out wide (the rare one-on-one matchup which might not always favor Hopkins), Watson was willing to spread the ball around early, working the middle of the field rather than the deep stuff. Watson hit a few plays downfield, but he played a smart game rather than a flashy one.

And it worked.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. The Patriots have serious problems, which is a weird thing to say about a team that’s 10-2 and has six Super Bowl trophies in the case.

For quarterback Tom Brady, it was a second straight sub-par performance against Texas teams. He finished 24-of-47 for 326 yards and three touchdowns and an interception, which sounds better than it was because the Texans chose to play it safe late. Brady completed just 17-of-37 last week in a sloppy win at home against the Cowboys.

It’s not that he’s old, or simply that he misses retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.

He doesn’t look like a guy who trusts his teammates to be at the right place at the right time. Other than known security blanket Julian Edelman (and to a lesser degree James White), there doesn’t appear to be a guy on that offense who Brady doesn’t seem to be regularly scolding/giving positive affirmations and gentle corrections to.

Because the Patriots have mixed it up so often in the past — winning in many different ways — we sort of assume they’re going to continue to.

But without a downfield playmaker or more consistent plays by the guys around him now (including a line wracked by injuries all year), Brady is going to have to play better than he already has in his career if he’s going to win with this bunch.

It’s not impossible. Betting against him now would be foolish. But it’s definitely harder.

2. The win was big for the Texans (8-4) for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, it kept them a game ahead of the surging Titans (7-5) for the AFC South lead.

But it also snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Patriots, dating back to their last win in 2010.

That streak included all five of the previous meetings under coach Bill O’Brien, and not being 0-for in anything is a good thing.

3. The Texans linebackers tempted fate by showing up in costume.

They walked into their home stadium wearing SWAT-team inspired gear, which seemed a little over the top, and certainly a risk.

The 2012 letter-jacket stunt backfired badly, as the 11-1 Texans went to New England and lost 42-14 , and they haven’t beaten the Patriots since then either.

4. The sickness that rolled through the Patriots locker room last week was severe enough to make them take two planes to Houston.

And it kept them from being 100 percent during it.

Right tackle Marcus Cannon had to leave the game for an IV in the second half, and was replaced by Marshall Newhouse. Cannon was able to return to the game.

But as a whole, they looked like a team at something less than 100 percent.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy appeared to be mocking it after a first-quarter sack, falling to his back and looking exhausted. But by the end of the night, the already thin Patriots appeared to be gassed.

5. The Patriots have made a habit of winning with varying personnel.

But the idea that their only points for the first 44 minutes of the game would be scored by their fourth kicker of the year is ridiculous by their standards.

Kai Forbath hit his 23-yard field goal on the first possession, at the end of the 14-play drive which held such promise.

Forbath’s replacing Nick Folk (appendectomy), who replaced Mike Nugent (missed too many kicks), who replaced the injured Stephen Gostkowski (hip).

He missed an extra point (after they took a delay of game on purpose), so there’s no true security there for him. Such that there is for any kicker. Particularly there.