Ryan L. Fox
It’s been a tumultuous first half of the 2020 NFL season for the Patriots. Between COVID-19 outbreaks and poor play, they had gotten down to 2-5. Since then, they got hard earned victories against the Jets (snerk) and Ravens to put them at 4-5 and pretty much in the drive’s seat for their path to the playoff (if you listen to the 2-6 Show on the Sports Hub). Nevertheless, winning two games in a row will boost any team’s confidence.
The team traveled down to Houston Texans to play a Sunday matinee down in NRG Stadium, looking to get their 3rd consecutive victory. The two teams dueled against one another under the Texas sun for 60 minutes. When the final gun was sound, only one team stood tall with a big smile while another team ended up falling flat on their face.
After forcing the Texans to punt on their first possession of the game, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 16. They grinded the porous Texans defense all the way down the field. When they weren’t pounding the rock, the Patriots got big gains in the air. This included QB Cam Newton finding RB James White on a 34-yard screen pass on 2nd and 7 at the New England 19 to the Houston 47 and followed that up with a 17-yard pass to WR Damiere Byrd to the Houston 30 on the next play.
The Patriots got all the way down to the Houston 9 where on 2nd and goal, RB Damien Harris took the handoff over the right side for the score. K Nick Folk booted the PAT through the uprights to make it 7-0 in favor of the Patriots with 6:52 left to play in the 1st quarter.
The lead didn’t last that long.
After getting the ball back on the their own 27, the Texans went to the air. This included a 44-yard pass from QB Deshaun Watson to WR Brandin Cooks on 2nd and 6 from the Houston 31 down to the New England 25 and then a 22 yard pass from Watson to TE Jordan Akins down to the New England 3 a few plays later. From there, on 1st and goal at the 3, Watson found WR Randall Cobb in the back of the endzone for the 3-yard touchdown pass. K Ka’imi Fairbairn booted the PAT through as the game was tied at 7-7 with 3:56 left in the 1st quarter.
After forcing the Texans to punt, the Patriots got the ball at their own 29. The offense ended up driving down the field on the Texans defense, including Newton finding WR Jakobi Meyers deep for a 20-yard pass down to the Houston 28. Then on 2nd and 7 from the Houston 25, Newton found RB Rex Burkhead for a quick dump-off pass gotten then what appeared to be a first down.
Unfortunately, WR N’Keal Harry was called for an offensive pass interference that wiped the potential first down play and backed the Patriots up. The drive ended up stalling out as the Patriots had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by folk to make it 10-7 with 8:32 left in the 2nd quarter.
But in seesaw fashion, the lead didn’t last that long.
Watson ended up putting the Texans offense on his shoulders whether it was through the air or with his feet. The Texans drove down the field on the Patriots, getting down to the New England 4. On 2nd and goal from the New England 4, Deshaun Watson scrambled to the left side and into the endzone, bowling over Patriots FS Devin McCourty in the process. Fairbairn booted the PAT through to make it 14-10 in favor of Houston with 3:54 left in the 2nd quarter.
After forcing the Patriots to punt, the Texans got the ball back on their own 20. Again, Watson lead the Texans offense down the field. They got down to the New England 14 where on 2nd and 6, Watson found Cooks for a touchdown. But the touchdown was nullified due to an ineligible man down the field penalty as the ball was backed up to the New England 19. Watson ended up finding Cooks for a 14-yard pass down to the New England 5.
But on the ensuing play, the Texans were hit with another ineligible man down the field penalty that backed the Texans to the New England 10. Then two plays later, with time ticking down, Watson found WR Keke Coutee in the back of the endzone for the touchdown. Fairbairn booted the PAT through as the Texans lead grew to 21-10 with 10 seconds left in the quarter.
The Patriots got the ball back as Newton simply kneeled the ball down as the final play of the quarter. Both teams went into halftime with the Texans leading 21-10, getting some water and gearing up for the next half.
After punting on their first possession of the 2nd half, the Patriots got the ball back on their own 18. After the first two plans of the drive went nowhere, Newton found Byrd for a 30-yard connection to the New England 48. From there, the offense found its groove getting down to the Houston 42. Then on 1st and 10 from the Houston 42, Newton threw a bomb deep down the middle for Byrd for a 42-yard touchdown. Folk booted the PAT through the uprights as the Texans lead was cutdown to 21-17 with 8:14 left in the 3rd quarter.
A 36-yard field goal by Fairbairn helped push the Texans lead up to 24-17with 2:04 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
The Patriots were able to respond that Texans field goal of their own in the 4th quarter. Folk’s 36-yard field goal made it 24-20 with 7:39 left in the quarter. That field goal ended up capping a 16 play drive that took 9:22 off the clock as well.
Another Fairbairn field goal from 46 yards out brought the Texans lead back to a touchdown, 27-20, with 4:11 left in the game.
With time running down, the Patriots tried to drive down the field for the tying score. With a few big pass plays by Newton, the offense got all the way down the Houston 30. A 6-yard run by James White made it 2nd and 4 from the Houston 24. After an incompletion on 3rd down, the Patriots were faced with 4th and 4. The Texans defense pressured Newton, forcing him to throw the ball away as the Patriots turned the ball over on downs with 1:11 left to play in the game.
After forcing the Texans to punt, the Patriots got the ball back at their 29 with 9 seconds left in the game. Newton found TE Ryan Izzo for a quick 9-yard catch-and-run to the New England 38 before slipping out of bounds. With 4 seconds left, Newton threw up one last Hail Mary pass. As luck would have it, Izzo caught the jump ball at the Houston 12. But he was swarmed and tackled before he could try to lateral the ball, ending the game.
When the clock hit 00:00, the score was Houston 27 and New England 20.
The loss put a major damper on the Patriots momentum and playoff push. It bumped them back down and made the road for that final wildcard spot even more trickier than it was just last week.
The Belichick-Crennel Connection
I know that this has been played over so many times before in the past when these two teams played against one another. But how can you not recognize the connections that the coaches of each team has. Yes, I talking about Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Texans interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
For all you young Patriots fans as well as you bandwagoners, Romeo Crennel was the defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 2001-2004 under Bill Belichick. Yup, Romero Crennel was the architect of those stout Patriots defense during their first 3 championships of the Patriot Dynasty. But the Belichick-Crennel goes further back than that.
Prior to that, they were both a part of Bill Parcells’ coaching staff during the Big Tuna’s tenure with the New York Jets. Belichick was the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach (1997-99) while Crennel was the defensive line coach (1997-1999). Before that, both of them were a part of the 1996 Patriots coaching staff with Belichick as the defensive line coach while Crennel was the defensive backs coach and the assistant head coach.
But the first time that these two met was back in 1981 with the New York Giants.
After spending 1980 as a defensive line coach for Georgia Tech, Crennel was hired by the Giants onto Ray Perkins’ coaching staff to be the special teams coach. Belichick was already on the staff as he was the current linebackers and special teams coach for the G-men. Then in 1985, Belichick was promoted to defensive coordinator under Parcells while Crennel took full reigns of running the special teams. They worked together until after the 1990/91 season when Belichick left the Giants to take a head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns while Crennel stuck around for three more season (1990-1992) with the Giants as their defensive line coach.
You can see that the two have had a lot of history with one another, working together in the NFL for 18 years. In fact, Belichick has often gushed about working with Crennel. In an interview with the media, when asked about his time working with Crennel, Bill said the following about him.
"He's a great addition to any staff. I had been very, very fortunate to work with him throughout my career, starting with the Giants when he came in '81 and we spent a lot of time together. I've learned so much from him. He's an excellent teacher, a great communicator, motivator, fundamental coach with a very good grasp of the big picture, as well as the finer details of pretty much every position and every little scheme.”
"So, I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of great coaches in my career, but he would be at the very top of that list. I think the world of him and appreciate his friendship and have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's accomplished in his career and great appreciation for all that he's done to not only help me as a head coach, but when we were both assistants and we worked alongside each other, he was a great teammate and person that I learned probably a lot more from than I would have taught him. He's a great man, a great coach."
(Credit Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports for the quote)
Although we think of Belichick as this hard, grizzled coach that takes no prisoners and enjoys toying with those who he despises (see New York Jets and anybody who has ‘slighted’ him), it’s kinda heart-warming to see him gush about one of his best friends. It’s unfortunate that the Texans will not retain Crennel as their head coach in 2021. That could possibly open up the window for perhaps a reunion between the two best friends up in Foxborough in 2021.
I know that’s a pipe dream but in a year filled with misery and death, what’s wrong with having something positive to think about? Am I right folks?
Notable Patriots Players Statistical Standouts
QB Cam Newton – 26 for 40 for 365 yards and 1 TD for a QB rating of 102.6, 3 carries for 6 yards (2.0 yards per carry)
RB Damien Harris – 11 carries for 43 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and 1 TD
RB James White – 5 carries for 19 yards (3.8 yards per carry), 6 catches (on 8 targets) for 64 yards
WR Damiere Byrd – 6 catches (on 7 targets) for 132 yards and 1 TD
CB Stephon Gilmore – 6 tackles (4 solo, 2 assists)
DB Johnathan Jones – 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assist)
S Adrian Phillips – 7 tackles (4 solo, 3 assists), 1 pass defended
S Kyler Bugger – 6 tackles (6 solo, 2 assists)
Numbers! Numbers! Numbers!
167.4 – The average rushing yards per game allowed by the Houston Texans defense this season (the most in the NFL)
161.1 – The average rushing yards per game by the New England Patriots offense this season (3rd most in the NFL)
86 – The amount of rushing yards by the Patriots offense for the game
224.1 – The amount of net passing yards per game allowed by the Patriots defense (for 10th best in the NFL)
344 – The amount of net passing yards allowed by the Patriots defense for the game
6 – The number of consecutive meetings (going back to 2015) between the Patriots and Texans in the regular season (Patriots 4-2 during that span)
2 – The number of touchdown passes by Patriots wide receivers this year (both by WR Damiere Byrd)
365 – The number of passing yards for the game for Cam Newton, (after averaging 191.9 yards per game)
7 – The number of games this year that the Patriots have allowed an opponent to score 20 points or more in a single game (2-5 in those games)
83 – The number of rushing attempts by QB Cam Newton, the most rushing attempts in franchise history by a quarterback in a single season (surpasses 81 rushing attempts Steve Grogan during the 1978 season)
Going into their game with the Texans, the Patriots were in line for the #15 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
After their 27-20 loss to the Texans, the Patriots have actually ‘moved up’ 3 spots and currently sit at the #12 overall spot.
Fox Fist Bump
I gotta give the Fox Fist Bump to WR Damiere Byrd.
After being pretty much overshadowed by fellow wideout Jakobi Meyers for the past couple of weeks, Byrd was able to soar against the Texans. He finished the game with 6 catches for a career high of 132 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. This included a 42-yard bomb in the 3rd quarter where Byrd sped by the Texans defense to haul in the pass for the score.
He was fast, he was quick, he got the job done.
Also interesting fact about Damiere Byrd. He’s the only receiver on the entire Patriots squad right now that has a touchdown catch. In fact, he was the recipient of 2 of Newton’s 3 touchdown throws for the season. Ironically enough, both of those touchdowns came in losses but it shows that Byrd is worth keeping around for next year.
The Meatball of the Game
It’s very rare that I give the Meatball of the Game to fans. The last time I did that was to some jackoff Pats fan who thought it would be funny to throw beer into Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill.
This time, I’m giving it to those idiotic Texan fans who thought it would be awesome to just holler every time that the Patriots had the ball.
I don’t know who the hell those idiots were or what was going through their pea-sized brains but holy crap, you could hear them holler over the broadcast. It was just so freaking obnoxious! I’m all for fans trying to distract players or holler like once in a while but there’s a limit to that.
Have some decency or at least try to pretend you have a brain you morons.
Play of the Game
On a Dime
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