By Bill McCaughey
For the Fort Bend Star
The Houston Texans beat the New England Patriots 27-23 last Saturday night at NRG Stadium in a meaningless game that meant everything to the Texans.
The victory was proof that the Texans could beat the Patriots, even if it was a preseason game. This was the key take-away of the evening. If the Texans intend to make it to the Super Bowl, the road will probably go through New England. Previously the Texans were 1-6 against New England.
Other take-aways from the game included:
Tom Savage solidified his position as the starting quarterback by going 8-9 with 98 passing yards and one touchdown in one quarter of play. Deshaun Watson played the second quarter and 11 minutes of the third quarter and was 3-10 with 102 passing yards. Savage’s quarterback rating was 149 compared to Watson’s 70.
At age 40, Tom Brady can still pick apart a defense, or at least the Texans’ defense. Brady played just two series but was 6-9 with 67 passing yards, one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 126.
As for the game, JJ Watt set the tone on the first Patriots’ series, as he bulled his way past the offensive line and tackled Rex Burkhead for a two-yard loss on a second and two play. The Patriots could not convert on third down and had to punt.
Watt felt the play energized the fans.
“It was really good to be back in front of our home crowd. We have some of the best fans in the world. It’s really good to be back in Houston. Good to be back in the city, in front of our fans in our own stadium, in our own home. We love it here. We love playing for these people,” Watt said.
The Texans scored on their second possession on an 11-play, 58-yard drive in the first quarter. Jaelen Strong scored on a 2-yard pass from Savage with 1:13 to go in the first quarter. The Patriots responded on their next series as Burkhead scored on a 22-yard pass from Brady. The 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive took just three minutes and 33 seconds.
“Burkhead had a one-on-one matchup with the linebacker they had in coverage and he made a really good move to the out, and then broke across to space. I knew there was a lot of space in there if he could make the catch. He made a great catch and obviously a good run. It was a big play,” Brady said.
New England led 13-10 at halftime as they kicked two field goals to the Texans’ one prior to halftime. The third quarter saw the Patriots extend their lead to 16-10 on a 42-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
The Texans quickly grabbed a 17-16 lead as Watson rolled to his right from the 2-yard line and then cut up the middle for a touchdown, leaving a defensive lineman frozen in his tracks.
“It was a play that O.B. (Bill O’Brien) called and I just made it work. Everyone did their job. It was a one-on-one matchup and I won my matchup,” Watson said.
The key play of the five-play, 75-yard drive was D’Onta Foreman’s 63-yard run after catching a pass from Watson.
“I went out there and Watson gave me the signal. I went inside and looked for the ball. He threw me the ball and then I was loose. I was mad I didn’t score though,” Foreman said.
The Texans added a 35-yard field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn to make the score 20-16 at the end of three quarters.
The Patriots scored on their first possession of the fourth quarter as D.J. Foster scored on a 25-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo to make the score Patriots 23, Texans 20.
That lead didn’t last for long as Denzel Rice intercepted a Garoppolo pass at the New England 43-yard line and returned it to the Texans’ 4-yard line. Foreman scored on the next play and the Texans were in front, 27-23 with 11 minutes to go in the game. After that neither team could score, and the game was not decided until with 38 seconds to go, the Texans’ third string linebacker, Ufomba Kamalu, hit third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, causing a fumble which rolled out of the end zone, giving the Texans the ball and the win.
After the game, Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien was happy with Savage’s play.
“I thought he really handled the two drives that he had, he handled them really well. He’s an accurate passer. He’s got really good command of what we do, and he’s a fun guy to coach. They’re all fun to coach, all three of them. They’re good guys,” said O’Brien.
Savage was also pleased with his play.
“I thought offensively we did a good job moving the ball down the field and scoring some points,” Savage said. “This is a good foundation we’re building, but we got to keep improving. We got to get out there, and keep working.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was, characteristically, subdued after the game.
“We obviously still got a lot of things we need to work on, things that we can improve in. I feel like we took a positive step this week. Need to do it again next week and start stringing them together. I think we’re making some progress here with our team. Obviously still got a long way to go. Lot of things to work on and improve. We’ll look forward to addressing those this week,” Belichick said.
For the game, the Patriots had 24 first downs and 339 total yards to 13 first downs and 281 total yards for the Texans.
The Texans play at New Orleans on Saturday.