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Wednesday, 27 September 2017 02:16

New England Patriots: The good, the bad, and the clutch vs the Houston Texans

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Brandin Cooks with the game winning touchdown Brandin Cooks with the game winning touchdown Jim Rogash - Getty Images

The New England Patriots rallied back to score a game wiing touchdown against the Houston Texans with only seconds to spare to win 36-33. 

The Patriots won in a thriller on Sunday, with only 2 minute left, Tom Brady did what he does best and brought the Patriots to victory in a nail biting finish.

With such a thrilling game, there were some draw backs. One of the biggest concerns coming out over the past three weeks is the defenses ability to stop opposing teams. The Patriots allowed Deshaun Watson to sling the rock around for 301 yards, which is far too much for a rookie in only his second start against the Super Bowl Champions of just last year. Not one Texan receiver had a dominant effort, but four players had over 50 yards and three of them were over 60 yards. With a defensive backfield that is supposed to be the strongest unit on defense, it is a little surprising to see a rookie have so much success on an experienced and talented secondary. Overall though, this defense is still learning and I imagine the secondary will hunker down and with 3 pro bowlers, I think we will be talking about them being among the best by the end of the year.

One other area of concern is the pass rush. Pass rushing has not been a strong suit over the past few seasons, although they were second in the league in sacks a few seasons ago, they never really have a dominant double digit sack man. It will be a group effort this year and you see players like Cassius Marsh, Kyle Van Noy, and when healthy, Dont’a Hightower playing all over and especially near the line for Hightower. Deatrich Wise Jr. has started off nicely with two sacks in the first two games and then had a significant pressure as he caused Watson to under throw Hopkins into the waiting arms of Stephon Gilmore for his first Patriots interception. This might be the biggest area to watch as the season unfolds. The line backing core is think without Hightower, but Van Noy is holding his own and as a fan of old school football, I look forward to seeing how Elandon Roberts progress, but I digress, the pass rush is key to any championship defense and right now, they are not generating enough pressure. Watson has some nifty legs, but 301 yards in Foxboro as a rookie, he had too much time to get those passes off.

To get away from those negatives though, the defense had some bright spots. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy notched a team leading 11 tackles while Elandon Roberts was third on the team with 9 tackles. Trey Flowers was active with 6 tackles and 1 sack. So not that these stats jump off the screen, but the linebacker core is very thin right now and Van Noy and Roberts showed ability to maneuver around the field and makes plays all over. It is key right now when Hightower is still recovering from an injury. Seeing Flowers come up big on multiple occasions is a great sign as well. With the departure of Rob Ninkovich and veterans Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard, the Patriots were left with a young and inexperienced pass rush. Trey Flowers might’ve been the second biggest name to gain stardom after last year’s Super Bowl as he tallied 2.5 sacks, so to see him step up, it makes you feel confident in his future.

Malcolm Butler put on a show Sunday after facing criticism for his lack of playing time against the New Orleans Saints. Butler was all over receivers and when they caught the ball, he let them know he wasn’t letting them go easy. On numerous occasions we saw Butler lift and slam opponents, including the bigger, Deandre Hopkins, and would be chirping them until they walked back to their huddle. It was a great sight to see as so much hype is behind this secondary and it looks like they are lowly coming together and reaching their potential.

The true positive of the day though was the Patriots offense and Tom Brady continuing to delay Max Kellerman’s prediction of him falling off a cliff. In fact, Brady hasn’t even reached the top of the mountain yet. With 375 yards and 5 touchdowns, it’s beginning to feel like yet another MVP caliber season and hopefully even more, another Super Bowl. One of the best parts of his career day was the distribution of the ball. Chris Hogan had 4 receptions for 68 yards and 2 touch downs, Gronk beasted for 89 yards off of his 8 catches, and finally…. FINALLY, we saw what we all have been waiting for, Brandin Cooks absolutely burning the Texans top defense for 5 receptions, 131 yards, and 2 touchdowns, with one being a breath taking, toe tapping, game winning catch. The running game struggled against a dominant Texans front as they only accumulated 59 yards, but when they could not run, they managed to pass and passed effectively. Yet again, when the Patriots needed Tom terrific to come in clutch, he gave us yet another memorable win. Facing multiple long down situations on the last drive and working with a little over two minutes, Brady was able to find Gronk and Amendola on key downs and then Cooks for the game winning catch.

This team is only just beginning. There are multiple areas that need work and we could look for Belichick to utilize the trade deadline like he has in the past for players like Aqib Talib or Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers who both played roles in the 2014 Super Bowl win. It will be interesting to see where this team is come the middle of the season, but although the offense has looked good, it really showed what it is capable of with big, explosive, clutch plays. 

Charles Russek

Charles Russek is a member of the CLNS Radio New England Patriots beat team.  Currently serving as the staff writer for the Patriots Beat Podcast, Charles provides coverage of one of the most foreknown podcasts covering the four-time Super Bowl Champions.  You can also hear Charles on the CLNS Radio New England Patriots Post Game Show which goes live after every single Pats game available on CLNSRadio.com and iTunes and Stitcher.  He is studying Criminal Justice at Plymouth State University.
 
Follow Charles on Twitter: @chuck_wagonn

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