Most of us have gone through a rite of passage in our lives. Somewhere along the way, we competed against someone and could never beat them. Maybe it was an older brother in one-on-one or HORSE. Maybe it was a parent playing Scrabble. Often it extended beyond what was a physical reality to a point where we should have been able to win, but it had become as much a psychological barrier as a physical one. It was a monkey on our backs that grew to King Kong proportions until we finally threw it off and stood tall.
Sunday night was just such a moment for Bill O'Brien. He had struggled and struggled to beat his mentor Bill Belichick. He had actually struggled to be like his mentor in how he ran his club, how he took over the total control of the team and how he wanted the team to play week to week. (A quick aside here - Luckily BOB is not such a royal d&%K that he shakes hands after a loss like BB. Belichick barely touched hands with BOB and was turning away as it occurred. It looked like BOB had just come back from a year in a leper colony.)
BOB probably should have beaten New England in the game Deshaun Watson started against the Pats in 2017, but they fell basically a play or two short that day. But this time Watson grabbed control of the game, O'Brien did a masterful job of calling the game and the team rolled to a 28-22 win over the BB and the Pats.
The win could have been an even bigger win rather than one where the Texans almost saw the Pats recover a perfect onside kick for a heartbreaker of a win at the end. Of course two things helped the Pats race back from a 28-9 deficit in the last 4 minutes of the game. Prevent Defense - an oxymoron and two words that should never be in the same sentence. And Coach BOB forgetting that he had trusted Watson to get him to a 19 point lead and needed him to get one first down (with a 28-15 lead and less than 3 minutes left). This led to two TDs and an oh-so-close onside kick that luckily was knocked out of bounds.
But enough about the negatives..... this was a game about the positives:
- The Texans did the best job in their history of ignoring calls and plays that went against them. Have a penalty against Barkevious Mingo wipe out a big 7 yard loss and help the Pats drive deep in to Texans territory? Just bow up and force NE into a short FG. TD pass to Will Fuller overturned (rightfully)? Just throw another beautiful toss to the same spot that Kenny Stills pulls in for a 35 yd TD. Max Scharping false start turns a 3rd and 1 into a 3rd and 6? Hit Hop for the first down on a drive where Hop hits Deshaun in a crazy backyard play for a TD.
- The Texans won the turnover battle 1-0 and the one was a beautiful pick by Bradley Roby, who had just come back from injury. It was one of a number of plays against Tom Brady where it looked like the Texans' DBs were the receivers.
- Deshaun Watson was excellent. He was 18 for 25 for 234 yards with 3 TDs, 0 interceptions, and a 140.7 QB rating....just a little better than Brady's Osweilerian 85.9.
- Duke Johnson was a super receiving weapon, especially in the first half with 5 catches for 54 yards and a TD on a superbly set up pass.
- While not getting a lot of touches, TEs Darren Fells and Jordan Akins had 3 key catches. Fells had a TD on a well designed pass coming out of a stacked back field.
- The running game was pretty anemic (23 for 52 yards), but Houston did a pick up a number of first downs when the team needed it.
- The play calling and design by BOB was terrific this night. The trickery of the multi-handoffs leading to a forward pitch RPO with DeAndre Hopkins as the trigger man to Watson as the flying Wallenda may have been the best trick play the Texans have ever pulled off.
- For most of the game, the Texans did something to the Patriots that the Patriots' defense usually does to opponents; that was to slow down the Pats best weapon, Julian Edelman. Edelman did end up with six catches for 106 yards, but for most of the game he was held in check by double teams. The Pats held Will Fuller to 2 catches for 8 yards, but Watson hit all of his other weapons for key first downs and touchdowns.
- Jacob Martin had his big coming out with 1.5 sacks (that seemed like 2 sacks at the time) and gave the Texans their best pass rush since J.J. Watt went out
- Truth in advertising here - Bradley Roby did have one big missed tackle late against Ben Watson that let the Pats out of a 3rd and 17 hole, but he made a huge field-flipping play on the interception early in the game, had another interception taken away for being a bit too handsy, and sacked Brady on a perfectly timed blitz right after half time.
- Until the last two drives of the game, the Texans' defense had Brady on the ropes and raving at his receivers. He was hitting under 50% before slipping over the mark by the end of the game, but when the Texans were pulling away, it was as much about the defense getting off the field as it was Watson cashing in TDs instead of FGs.