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A Decade Of Hell: Revisiting Past Texans-Patriots Matchups

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A decade comes to a close on Sunday night.

Houston Texans Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Explosion from the tank. A rapturous huff of air. A decade of living the typical 20—something American life.

Fighting off sleep paralysis, depression, and a Texas Rangers World Series loss; losing so many pounds; falling in love; crying at the Grand Canyon; graduation swimming; selling online marketing to electricians and yoga instructors, the owners of small to medium sized businesses; sitting in traffic; drowning in a deep depression; stumbling out of love; resuscitating a smashed heart; feel the feeling; waterfall photos; binge drink evenings; desert living; cut down the cedar trees, TEXAS returning; obtaining capitalism survival, and now, here I sit, reaping the benefits of all that work, wandering, and downright misery. You know the typical things. The things we all endure in various formats. And throughout all of it were the Houston Texans playing football, and more specifically, the Houston Texans losing games to the New England Patriots.

(these are these things and these are memories)

12/10/2012

Lime green couch. Mouse turds under the cushions. Band Of Horses playing. My head in your lap. I am a princess and these are my peas. Bedrock futon on a wooden frame. Hard purified dark carpet. Brother and roommate in the living room. This is some fine duplex living.

Houston (11-1) v. New England (10-2). Let’s go bro. The best matchup of the regular season. Battlefighting for a first round bye. Matt Schaub could finally feel his foot since Albert Haynesworth had it in his mouth the previous year. Legitimate Superbowl contenders. These were once substantial thoughts and legitimate feelings to have. Fun times and beautiful days.

I had a short glass. The type adults drink brown liquid out of on the television. I bought it at the NFL Hall of Fame. Texans logo in the bottom of the glass. Hall of Fame Insignia underneath. I loved it. Picked it up on a road trip during my days in Ohio’s butthole. Put it to use. Notebook on the coffee table. Taking notes for a Blogspot post to cure after school boredom. Brown liquid in the glass. It was a birthday present.

Ahhhhh, youth, that desperate and purulent and wild thing, barbaric, like those vines overwhelming the power lines, that thing that makes you feel so-so-so-so many things, absurd things like, the Houston Texans are going to beat the New England Patriots.

This of course didn’t happen. These things don’t happen. The Texans lost 42-7

If you forgot, Brian Cushing shredded his entire knee on Monday Night Football after Matt Slauson chopped him from behind in an enormous win over the New York Jets. Without Cushing in the lineup the Texans resorted to Bradie James and Darryl Sharpton as their starting inside linebackers. This led to Aaron Hernandez breaking James on an out route.

They tried everything to cover Hernandez, including not even covering him. This touchdown ended with Hernandez doing the dice thing. This was 2012. Knocked Up had only been out on DVD for four years now.

Houston’s pass rush couldn’t quite get there. J.J. Watt had four quarterback hits and zero sacks. Kids these days have no idea what we went through to eat the tape.

New England went up 21-0. They attacked their worst defenders, and even then, players like Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph were beat in coverage, and Glover Quin bit HARD on a play action fake, the same type of fake that Houston loved to run back when we loved things.

The Texans’ offense wasn’t particularly bad this game. At one point they had run 16 plays in New England territory, but 0 in their redzone. They just made so many mistakes. Between all the second and ten plus runs, Vince Wilfork penetrations, and limp Matt Schaub throws, everything went New England’s way, like it always does:

Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I sit and wonder what is Lestar Jean is up to. He dropped a must catch on 3rd and 6.

Danieal Manning forced a redzone fumble. The ball slipped out of Kareem Jackson’s hands, but not Hernandez’s. He caught the soap.

Right outside the redzone, Schaub threw a wobbly interception.

A pass interference penalty on Manning that was so horrendous, that a challenge flag would have overturned it in 2019.

Kevin Walter dropped a fourth down conversion.

A Watt reach around forced fumble turned into a Brandon Lloyd recover and score. I haven’t heard that name in years.

You have to be clean and exact and capitalize on every opportunity to beat the Patriots. They didn’t this time. They never do.

The worst, the worst of all time, was the throw that made it 28-0. I’m still livid. FURIOUS. I wished I was dead. The Patriots signed Donte Stallworth to replace the injured Julian Edelman. He torched Brandon Harris, broke his tackle ‘attempt’, and then burned Quintin Demps before slamming the ball across the endzone. I threw my spiral. I yelled obscentites. The room turned quiet. The dog’s aching joints lifted him from his crusty bed and out of the room. I have to be better.

I learned a valuable lesson. Don’t let the games infuriate, and on the rare occasion they do, don’t act on that feeling. Suck it down. Be a man. Be an adult. Grow up. Frontal lobe expansion. I’ve entered a new ring of consciousness.

Everything that previously happened wasn’t absurd enough. No. It had to stretch and snap the limits of the human psyche. The backup quarterbacks were in. Ryan Mallett has a strong arm met Shiloh Keo.

“Will they meet again, we don’t know?” Mike Turico pondered. The last clump of Earth tossed onto the grave. They did. Oh, they did.

1/13/2013

The Texans beat the Bengals the weekend before and received an invitation up to New England. They lost a first round bye thanks to a 1-3 limping finish. They followed up the New England loss by beating Indianapolis, and then lost to Christian Ponder led Minnesota, there were field goals, so many field goals, and then to Indianapolis.

The game started with an explosion of skull. Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 94 yards.

The offense went to work picking up the fragments from the recently moonscaped Earth. Arian Foster picked up three on first down. James Casey didn’t haul in a catch he should have hauled in. Short armed. The New England defender snuck his paw into the pot.

3rd and 7. Schaub overthrew Andre Johnson in the back of the endzone. A frustrated Johnson flung his arms. 3-0. The game already felt over at this point. To beat New England everything has to be perfect. Every opportunity has to be capitalized on. Houston started off with a tremendous sound that quickly rang out into the underworld.

This game was the opposite of the previous matchup. Houston was the one who had the breaks. The Manning kick return. Wes Welker dropped a third down conversion against Harris. The offense struggled to answer after the defense made stops. Shayne Graham rocked a 55 yard field goal.

17-13 at the half. The Patriots came out and scored right away, balancing run and pass, hurrying up to run the football, and crushing James at the second level. Barrett Ruud was lined up wide against Shane Vereen this time. Brady put the ball in the bucket. The loose tooth was finally pulled. The route was on. My heart was broken.

I looked at the moon outside the barbeque restaurant. Crescent. It howled at me. And I took this as a metaphor of Bill Belichick mocking the Houston Texans, which, was just the same thing as mocking me, because I was a child. Toss the dish water from the Shop-Vac because the sink doesn’t drain. Let the food water splash my socks. Baptize me in the river and free me of my sins. I hurried home. It was 38-13 when I was on the futon, that lost home for the blacked out.

Devier Posey caught a touchdown pass. The last and only one the Grey Cup MVP would snag in the National Football League. The death rattle. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Some other stuff happened. It was meaningless. Everything is meaningless.

Houston is still a team that has just entered its window of title contention and should win the AFC South for the next three years or until Luck becomes a Texans serial killer. This is still a great young football team, that had just finished the greatest season in franchise history and will continue to get better. Seasons will change, Spring will be here soon, the hellacious Summer heat will come and go and Fall will bring some leaves changing (don’t change until December here) and Texans football. Next season Cushing will be back better than ever, the young receivers of this year will have another full off season to get ready, Rick Smith will fix the few holes this team has and Houston will play an even more incredible year of football next year. Go Texans.

12/01/2013

The Texans were not a young football team that would continue to get better. Cushing wasn’t back better than ever. His knee exploded. Jamaal Charles flipped him over on a free rush like the horror movie monster struck by a speeding van. Rick Smith let Glover Quin walk and signed Ed Reed. Everyone from that draft class aside from DeAndre Hopkins is somewhere else. Brennan Williams is a wrestling announcer and video game streamer. D.J. Swearinger’s dog bit Jadeveon Clowney and was cut the year after. Your boy Sam Montgomery was gone off the spice. Trevardo Williams is a holograph projected by the simulation that never flickered in Houston.

My birthday. Hungover on someone’s couch after forcing my brother to drive my mother’s suburban to take a horde of us to minor league hockey dollar beer night. I remembered nothing about this game. I watched it. I remember nothing. There’s some vague vision of Tom Brady with plenty of time to throw and Jeff Tarpinian. That’s about it.

I wish I remembered more of it. I wished I remembered more of everything. The past is scatter shot glimpses, a collage of fuzzy low light film photography, remembrances of the last time remembered, and even then, how much of it is actually real or true (?), but I guess it doesn’t matter anyways. Just like this game. Houston’s season was over after the loss to Kansas City. They were accidentally losing for Jadeveon Clowney at this point. That being said, this game was astoundingly fun. Even though Houston was 2-10 and New England was 9-3, the Texans took it New England.

Unlike previous matchups against New England, the Texans went spread early. Case Kennum worked mainly from the pistol. Five wide receiver sets. Ben Tate sprinted through Nickle defenses. Feeding Andre Johnson until he burst. Johnson was spectacular at adjusting his routes to find space against zone coverage.

Unlike the previous matchup, Houston actually scored a redzone touchdown. A spectacular Derek Newton block cleans the grade for Ben Tate. The outside zone isn’t a side project or a hobby. It’s a lifestyle.

Wade Phillips had enough of Darryl Sharpton covering New England’s tight ends for almost an entire quarter of this game. Johnathan Joseph covered Rob Gronkowski in isolated man coverage. He leaped in front of a third down post route. Houston would go up 10-0.

This time it isn’t Sharpton against Gronkowski. No. It’s just a different version of it. Tarpinian, who is a man, not a science fiction purple alien with tentacles for a mustache, was shook by Gronk, who picked a pass off the ground to score.

I forgot about this. So many things gone forever. The only thing Case Keenum loves more than throwing the ball to Andre Johnson is taking deep sacks. Any sack greater than seven yards is a KEENUM. He loses eight this time and turns first and ten into second and eighteen.

The water skiing squirrel. The dog who says I love you. See Super Bowl winner Shiloh Keo’s circus act.

Ahhhh that wild heart.

All those past fears swallowed deep down, the things you’ve ignored come back to focus at the worst moment, Sharpton covering Grownkowski, only in death can you escape it.

Time is a circle folded upon itself repeating the same mistakes and stuck on the same tragedies. Free us from this prison that is our bodies. Release us from the constraints of the skull. This time D.J. Swearinger and Sharpton double Gronk, leaving Vereen wide open again.

Nut, meets blind squirrel. Football, meets Daryl Sharpton.

Houston would take the lead back in the fourth quarter. A staple deeeeep Keeeeenuuuuum heave to baby DeAndre Hopkins. Then an outside zone play with left edge pin and pull action. Case Keenum: father, husband, son, outside zone running back. I like to imagine Gary Kubiak designed this play in July, savoring it for this game specifically, imagining it sealing postseason homefield advantage.

It didn’t matter. Houston made back to back third down stops that included both Brandon Harris and Eddie Pleasant making plays against Gronk to force long field goals. Stephen Gostkowski knocked down back to back 53 yard field goals to take the lead. The offense couldn’t answer. Keenum was wilding out here.

Seven seconds left. Zero timeouts. One last shot. Rage against these dying days. Another one score loss. This was the seventh one in the midst of a nine game one possession losing streak.

Houston would continue to lose football games. They lost their remaining four, including a quick loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night that pretty much cemented their number one overal draft selection. The next day Gary Kubiak was fired. He would coach again in Denver. He invited Wade Phillips to be his defensive coordinator. That’s where they finally beat the Patriots with Peyton Manning as his quarterback.

12/3/2015

The McNairs had enough of this losing to the Patriots thing. They reverted to playing if you can’t beat them join them. They went out and got a Mr. Patriot of their own, Mr. Bill O’Brien, their former offensive coordinator and former Penn State head coach, the man responsible for coaching Tom Brady once, and unleashing Matt McGloin and Christian Hackenberg onto the world. O’Brien got his first swing at the Patriots pinata at the end of his second season on Sunday Night Football.

Battle Red, where were you for the Keshawn Martin revenge game? I was living with my parents, watching the game downstairs, on the big television, in the dark, by myself, with the volume low because their room was conjoined to the living room. Repeatedly he turned meek hang time Shane Lechler punts into positive returns that set up short fields. He shook rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson for a score. These are more than familiar patterns. This is artistic expression from a cruel and unjust God. Let’s ignore that he was benched after a fumbled punt that led to a turnover on downs.

New England had three touchdowns for two yards or less. Including this one, a fade to Gronkowski. Romeo Crennel has Quintin Demps covering him. Reality is a mirage.

Down big, it was time for Brian Hoyer to put on his tinfoil hat, grab his lunch pail, and get to work. He completed 50% of his passes for 159 yards and was sacked six times. As annoying as the present can be, nothing can be as terrible as the past. Every Deshaun Watson start is a gift.

It’s not even that these offenses were horrendous, which they were, but they were so boring. Flat routes to the tight end. Repetitive inside zone run plays. Nothing deep. Listen to these names. Yearning for Chris Polk to become a thing. Jonathan Grimes power run plays out of the shotgun. Cecil Shorts wildcat. The possum’s hiss. Andre Johnson would only get 40 catches in this offense. He left for Indianapolis so Nate Washington could have 47. Ryan Griffin crossing routes. Offensive super genius play designs.

It wasn’t all horrendous. This was Jadeveon Clowney’s breakout game. Seven tackles, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and two tackles for a loss. He clubbed the offensive tackle, smearing his brains like a baby seal, and split the double team. Injured rookie year. This is my first real memory of him.

Love this Watt-Clowney tackle-end stunt. My only regret is that we didn’t spend enough time together.

And remember this sack. It’s very important a year and half later. Whitney Mercilus spins around the center.

The defense was fine. The offense sucked. O’Brien’s first crack at the evil empire was a feather tossed at a granite mountain.

9/22/2016

Houston spent the offseason getting crazy. Drafting Will Fuller V in the first round. Signing Lamar Miller to replace Arian Foster, Jeff Allen to replace Brandon Brooks, and after Brian Hoyer’s historically awful performance in the Wildcard Round, desperation, the decision to finally address the quarterback position in a meaningful way, led them to [NAME REDACTED].

Houston was 2-0. They beat the Bears 23-14 and the Chiefs 19-12 in a fieldgoalpalooza. The Texans’ offense got by with deep passes against single high safety looks. The Patriots are a hallucinogenic experience for football teams. All of the problems, those things deep down and hidden, come bubbling in a torrential upheaval. Teams really don’t understand themselves and their true weaknesses until they play the Patriots. New England played two safeties deep. They bracketed DeAndre Hopkins. His receptions were tough 13 yard sideline catches. They took away the deep passing game and forced Houston to win short. [NAME REDACTED] couldn’t. Six total points in O’Brien’s first two New England matchups.

I’m afraid of no one. I’m not afraid of anything. Gas station tuna fish sandwich. Sitting on the toilet heart attack. Bring it on. I have already seen death. [NAME REDACTED] in all white. He looks like a scythe. Striking us down once we reach our time. OSWEILER. The meaning of pain.

The floral couch is now leather. A new quarterback. A new level of offensive ineptitude. 24/41. 196 yards. 4.78 yards an attempt. Jacoby Brissett averaged more yards a carry than [NAME REDACTED] did per pass attempt. It took them until 1:15 remaining in the third quarter to run a play in New England territory. You got it. This was pretty much it.

Love paying my quarterback $16 million a year to run the ball on 3rd and 8.

You’re right Phil. This was not a good idea.

Houston’s defense couldn’t get a pass rush. Charles James and Tyler Ervin fumbled kickoffs to give New England short touchdown drives. There are only two plays that matter. The big Jacoby Brissett run around Kareem Jackson. The big LaGarrette Blount run. Photo op with the 1776 dorks. New England would go 3-1 without Tom Brady.

What do these words make you feel? DEFLATEGATE. BROCK OSWEILER. THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. JACOBY BRISSETT. They make me sad. They make me seethe at the waste of so much time and so much life. There was nothing fun about this. There is nothing funny about any of this.

1/14/2017

Things never fully came together. Don’t let the final score fool you, this time the Texans had the defensive performance to beat New England. The defense should always be proud of what they were able to accomplish. They generated a continuous interior pressure. Jadeveon Clowney. Whitney Mercilus. Lined up over the center. Smashing Brady around. Who needs J.J. Watt?

This was the best secondary Houston has ever had. A spry 32 year old Johnathan Joseph, the Texans should have franchise tagged A.J. Bouye, Kareem Jackson tackling, Andre Hal at free safety. They covered New England. Brady was limited by a defense that finished fifth in pass defense DVOA. He threw two interceptions this game, and should have thrown a third, after throwing only two over the course of twelve regular season games.

New England had one real touchdown drive. Their other touchdown drives were the result of a terrible defensive pass interference penalty, the same exact sort of call that screwed Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game the following season, and a [NAME REDACTED] interception that handed the Patriots a tiny field. New England’s offense did only one thing consistently well. Isolate Benardrick McKinney in space against their running backs. There’s just something about Houston’s linebackers playing New England.

The problem was two problems. This was still during the horrendous special teams era of Texans football. They finished 31st in special teams DVOA. Dion Lewis returned a meek Nick Novak kickoff to score.

And the other? He needs no introduction. Already. You know what it is. Words are not needed to become this doormat.

After this interception I left. I brought things over to the new house I was moving into. This is the first time I watched the end of this game. I wish I hadn’t. I don’t even think I like football anymore.

9/24/2017

Eventually that lesson I learned on December 10th, 2012 became a general numbness. No expectations or feelings. There was nothing to be desired. Ego death. Clocking in at the factory. Laying on a clubhouse couch at a Dallas high rise. If I was a lazy writer I would describe the wind as crisp and the light as vibrant. The aesthetics as a sweater. Enter Deshaun Watson.

With Watson at quarterback the Texans are never out of any game. I’m still not used to this statement. I’ll never be used to watching him play. The feather is lighter than the football. All those years of miserable and decrepit quarterback play have warped my brain, making it oblong, gray, and rigid, and has left me unable to fully account for and understand the quarterback position.

Hot in Foxborough. There isn’t a dragon Watson is afraid of. In his second career start he entered the lair, stole the rubies and golden cups, and almost got away. This throw to Bruce Ellington changed our lives. It should be hanging up in your bedroom. This is for real.

Throughout this game he put on a dazzling array of sublime plays. He pin pointed one to Ryan Griffin down the seam.

I still have no idea what this is. I can’t explain it.

And of course, he made four New England defenders miss, dumped one off to D’Onata Foreman. Legendary. This set up a coward’s field goal.

Despite having Watt and Clowney healthy, the Texans allowed Tom Brady to throw a lot of touchdown passes. Five of them in fact. As long as the rush wasn’t there, someone was open. Defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel played a ton of cover four. Receivers reappeared past the confines of the television screen wide open.

It was a real last team to have the ball would win game. Kind of. New England scored with 23 seconds left. You know the play. It’s singed in your memory. Imprinted like a wandering phantom covered in a bedsheet. Brady. Cooks. Two feet in bounds. At least this one was fun.

Kind of. Sort of. Watson was unable to tie it up without a timeout. Houston had zero remaining. Bill O’Brien wasted one to challenge a third down sack that ended in a punt anyways. 36-33.

Moral victories are for losers and jelly fish spines. That being said, this game, regardless of the outcome, was monumental. It showcased Watson’s absurd ability to make the mundane remarkable, and casually do things no one has ever done before. All those years of wasted days because of maladorous quarterback play had been banished to the mausoleum of misery and despair. Houston finally had a franchise quarterback.

9/9/2018

Week one 2018. Heading into Labor Day weekend. Watson was the week one starter this time. I sat in a rental car in a Canadian campground listening to satellite radio. I heard the words and let my mind fill in the rest. I could see it. First play fumble that New England recovered. Rob Gronkowski open. I’ve seen these things so many times before. It was easy to see it again, reclined back, lacing my boots, eating trail mix. Stuck, frozen, it took every cell in my body to leave the car, walk along the river, drink from Lake Louise, and stomp up to glacial tracks. I could have died on that mountain pass through that snow storm.

The Patriots scored touchdowns, including one right at the end of the half to make it 21-6. Houston kicked field goals. I still can’t believe they placed Martinas Rankin at left tackle and switched Juli’en Davenport to right after Seantrel Henderson snapped his ankle.

Some late garbage points made it closer than it was. Sometimes it takes a couple of yanks to get the lawnmower going. There wasn’t much here. We’re still so close to it. I finally saw this game with my eyes in a Spokane airport while Houston lost to Blaine Gabbert and Tennessee. The past can have such a disgusting sting.

12/1/2019

This is what happened before. Sunday night is a new thing. The past has no affect on it. Yet, at the same time, somethings just don’t happen no matter how hard you work, or how much you want it to. Houston beating New England is one of those things. Until it happens, I don’t think it’s ever going to. It doesn’t matter that New England’s offense is mediocre, that they don’t have the same level of receiving talent to demoralize a strange secondary, that Gronkowski is no longer around, and Houston should have a chance against New England’s statistically all time great defense with Watson. We’ve seen this all before though.

0-8. A point differential of -120.

Go Texans.