Patriots 34, Texans 31: The Harder They Fight, the Harder They Fall
There is only one kind of victory in football, the kind that finds you ahead on the scoreboard when the game is over. In the Texans' latest loss to the Patriots, 34-31 on Sunday at Reliant Stadium, there seemed to be progress, but the result was the same as the Texans dropped their tenth straight game to fall to 2-10, now the worst record in the NFL thanks to wins by Jacksonville, Atlanta and Minnesota, two of which came in overtime.
No moral victories.
That now puts the Texans in the driver's seat for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Yet in August, they were picked as a playoff team at the very least and a Super Bowl contender by many. What went wrong on Sunday seemed a microcosm of the entire season. Despite playing well on offense, keeping their penalties down and holding their own in the turnover battle, they succumbed to a team that simply had better execution and was better prepared.
Up 17-7 at the half, the Patriots raced out to a 21-17 lead, which see-sawed back and forth until the Texans ran out of the plays and Tom Brady was on top again. The defense was unable to hold down the Patriot offense and the Texans offense just didn't have quite enough despite their biggest scoring output of the season.
What went right: The Offense
For all its struggles last week against Jacksonville, the offense really clicked on Sunday. Case Keenum looked sharp, throwing for 272 yards, rushing for one touchdown and throwing a single pick that came when his protection broke down and he was hit while throwing. Ben Tate had his best effort of the season with 102 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Andre Johsnon collected his 900th career pass catch, and, overall, the protection, passing and running games played well enough to win.
What went wrong: The Defense
Last week, linebacker Whitney Mercilus implied that the problem was the offensive side of the football after the Texans' anemic loss to Jacksonville. This week it was the defense's turn to look pitiful. They managed to contain New England in the first half, but had no answer in the second, allowing 24 second-half points to Brady and crew. They were unable to put enough pressure on Brady and, as a result, he picked the defense apart.
What must improve: At this point, who cares?
Seriously, the only concern for the Texans at this point should be protecting their opportunity to draft first in the 2014 draft. They are in position to do so and the only thing that could screw it up would be winning. With three away games in their division and one home game against Denver, it wouldn't be a shocker if they lost out, but at worst, they can't win more than one more if they want a shot at one of the premier players in the draft.
What should stay the same: Run Blocking
Yes, the Patriots are loaded with rookies on defense, but the run blocking was nevertheless outstanding for the Texans all day. They had a few moments where pass protection broke down, but when the team rushes for four touchdowns and your main back gains over 100 yards, it was a good day, which is a pleasant surprise considering all the rough days they have had this year.