Going into this game, I’m not sure how many people outside of the 713 area code really gave the Houston Texans much of a chance against the New England Patriots. And what we found out was, while the Texans are a good team, and they put up a valiant effort, are not however in the same class as the Patriots.
This game was a tale of one team’s strength; the Patriots offense, going against their opponent’s weakness; the Texans defense. Even though the Texans offense was able to move the football and generate enough points to win, their defense simply had no answer personnel-wise for what the Patriots wanted to do when they had the football.
But it wasn’t just the Patriots vaunted passing offense that did them in. No, it was this new fangled running game the Patriots are sporting and simply crushing blocking by the Patriots offense line that impressed me more than anything. This team is exponentially more dangerous when you realize that they can simply line up and run it right down a team’s throat when they want to. Not when they need to. When they want to. In the past it’s always been the passing offense that beat teams with the death of 1,000 cuts. But now they soften a team up with running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen and then send it over the top to wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. All this is minus running back Danny Woodhead who suffered a hand injury early on and tight end Rob Gronkowski who re-broke his forearm in the first half as well.
The story for the Texans was all on defense. If this team wants to be competitive against the best teams in the NFL, they must find some answers to their interior defensive line and across the board at linebacker. The Patriots simply pushed them around inside and quarterback Tom Brady was not put under nearly enough pressure to slow him down. This team must address these shortcomings on defense in the off-season to help become a more balanced team. The good news is the offense was able to move the football against a Patriots defense that had played so well. The key was they kept running back Arian Foster in check and put it all on quarterback Matt Schaub. He was unable to sustain drives and every time they gave the football back to the Patriots you had to assume they would score.
Neither defense was very good in this game, but I suppose for the Patriots, when they know that their offense can pick them up any time you can focus more on the big play rather than feel like you need to make every play. The Texans were unable to capitalize enough on this, and couldn’t win. But let me say again, the Texans offense is not to blame for this loss. You generate 28 points you hope your defense can do enough to keep you in the game. Back to the drawing board for head coach Gary Kubiak and the defense in the off-season.
This sets up an AFC championship game match-up between the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, which on paper at least appears to be a much better match-up than this week’s game was. And with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, you can bet that both teams will bring everything they’ve got.