HOUSTON'S "SUPER BOWL" LOSS TO NEW ENGLAND
With the return of Coach Gary Kubiak to the sidelines as extra motivation, the Houston Texans played their Super Bowl game Sunday. Going in they had lost 9 straight, including the 1st Draft Pick Bowl last week at home against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. They were about as low as a team can be and now were facing the powerful New England Patriots. This was their chance to show the home fans at Reliant Stadium and the NFL world that they were better than their record...Bill Parcells "You are what your record says you are" be damned...it was their Super Bowl.
Sure, winning (or is it losing) the 1st pick in the 2014 NFL draft would assure them of the starting QB they so desperately need. The last two time these 2 teams met the Patriots dominated them in 42-12 and 41-28 victories. They hoped to take this opportunity to turn the tables...and they almost did.
Before the game New England decided to deactivate Stevan Ridley and it had immediate results. After Houston punted on their 1st possession the Patriots took over deep in their own end of the field. Playing safe, they ran the ball on the 1st two plays and didn't fumble -a definit positive impact since this was in the prime RFZ - Ridley Fumble Zone. Although they ultimately gave the ball up, unlike last week, they had no turnovers.
On Houston' next series, the defense fell asleep, as WR Andre Johnson was left undefended (as in WIDE OPEN) for a 29 yard compeltion from Case (Who?) Keenum and RB Ben Tate (you'll be seeing his name a lot today) ran it in from 10 yards out. It was immediately obvious the Texans weren't thinking about next years draft!
Vision of last week's 1st half were dancing in everyone's head (not sugar plums) when the next Patriots series ended with a Tom Brady interception by CB Jonathan Joseph...who proceeded to run the ball back to the Pats 31...leading to a Randy (I have missed a bunch this year) Bullock 41 yard field goal, making it 10-0 Texans!
It couldn't happen again, could it? After a 41 yard kick-off return by Rookie Josh Boyce, Brady & Rob Gronkowski quickly dispelled that thought when Gronk made a spectacular 21 yard TD catch as the 1st quarter wound down. 10-7 Texans.
With just 1:47 left in the half, things turned again, as Tate (I thought he was hurt) ran almost untouched for 20 yards into the end zone putting Houston ahead 17-7.
The Patriots received the 2nd half kick-off and started a repeat of last weeks 3rd quarter scoring binge. After completing passes to Gronkoski and Shane Vereen, FB James (I won't fumble) Devlin brought them back to within 3 as he completed the drive with a 1 yard "Bowling Ball" touchdown. That took just 2:18 off the clock.
On their next possession it looked like the Patriots were going to put the Texans away as Brady hit Vereen with the go ahead TD with 8:06 left on the clock in the 3rd. 21-17 Patriots.
This was a perfect time for Houston to roll-over...but give them credit, it didn't happen. In fact, they went on an 81 yard drive that culminated in a Keenum 5 yard bootleg to put the Texans back on top 24-21. Poor tackling and a lack of intensity continued to plague the defense.
Now it was the Patriots turn, and they proved they were up to the task by marching down the field to the Houston 15. Brady promptly hit Julian (Who needs Wes Welker) Edelman on a big 3rd and 8. LeGarrette (Who is this Ridley guy) Blount rumbled in from 7 yards out to put the Pats back on top 28-24.
Surely this would be it. Houston could still brag they had given-it-all and lay down. Right? Wrong! Once again the Patriots defense collapsed. Keenun completed a 66 yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins. A TD saving tackle by Devon McCourty only delayed the inevitable...another Tate TD...his 3rd of the game...as he ambled in untouched from the 10, giving the lead right back to Houston 31-28! That carry took Tate over 100 yards and continued to show the football world that the Patriots can not stop the run.
Now the question was, how many times could the Patriots come back against the feisty (I like that word) Texans. Well, add this game to the list. After one drive set up a 53 yard Stephen Gostkowski FG, they got the ball back and he hit another 53 yarder to make it 34-31.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Did the Texans have another drive in them? They moved the ball to their own 42 and, with 2:07 left decided to go for it on 4th and 13. For one of the few times in the game, the Patriots put some real pressure on Keenum, and, as he was going down, he threw the ball harmlessly to...no one!
HERO OF THE GAME
That has to be placekicker Stephen Gostkowski, who hit 2 out of 3 FGs from more than 50 yards out. Early this year people were questioning him, but no more, as he has missed just 2 FGs all season.
This was a "trap" game, as the Patriots played just good enough to win 34-31. I take nothing away from Houston, who never gave up in their "Super Bowl" game for this year. Now they can step back, despite 10 straight losses, hold their head high and let the NFL world know they didn't quit in a tough battle with the Patriots.
I'll have another article on the game shortly, but meanwhile...whew...that was tougher than anyone thought it could be.
I can be followed on Twitter @SnowdonBob and would enjoy hearing your comments on the game.