The Texans didn’t get on the board until Arian Foster scored midway in the third quarter, which was likely a product of their inefficiency on third down. The Texans converted just 4-of-14 third downs and it was apparent that they lack a dependable possession receiver other than Andre Johnson. Dropped balls became the trend as wide receivers Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin and Kevin Walter were all unable to haul in passes at crucial times.
Brady continues to play at a high level
All week long it was reported that the Patriots used brooms to simulate J.J. Watt’s long arms at the line of scrimmage. Brady swept all of Watt’s hype aside on Monday night and made an MVP statement of his own in the Patriots’ 42-14 victory. The veteran quarterback carved up Houston’s defense for 4 touchdowns. Brady utilized all of the Patriots’ weapons on offense, hooking up with five different receivers for 296 yards. This type of performance in front of a national audience could get the Patriots quarterback back into the MVP conversation.
No Gronk, no problem
Bill Belichick drew criticism in Week 11 after he made the decision to play Rob Gronkowski in the fourth quarter of a 59-24 blowout win against the Colts. Gronkowski, who broke his forearm in a freak play on special teams, has been sidelined ever since. Although the Patriots have missed the team’s second-leading receiver, they have had other players elevate their games while he has rehabbed. The Patriots have a roster stocked with players who have unique qualities, which creates mismatches for their opponent. Whether it’s Wes Welker’s short-area quickness, Aaron Hernandez’s versatility or the downhill running game of Stevan Ridley, New England finds a way to expose its opponent and get the job done.
Patriots narrow the gap in AFC playoff seeding
New England earned its 10th win of the season, and more importantly shrunk the deficit to one game for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Although the Patriots are tied with the Broncos at 10-3, they hold the tiebreaker as they won a decisive 31-21 matchup back in October. Houston still controls its own destiny, but will need to finish strong. Houston’s remaining opponents include the surging Colts twice and the Vikings.
Patriots’ defense stiffens up
New England’s journey to Super Bowl XLVI wasn’t due to help from its defense. This year could be different. New England has some issues in its secondary, but it wasn’t evident against the Texans. Free safety Devin McCourty showed off his terrific range in the first quarter, picking off a Matt Schaub pass as the Texans were threatening. Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and newcomer Aqib Talib are still learning the system, but first-year defensive coordinator Matt Patricia could be most responsible for the unit’s turnaround. Patricia unleashed his collection of highly decorated former SEC players including Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo on the Texans and each had an impact.