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Incompletions: Texans-Patriots (A Decade Of Hell Comes To A Close)

With so much to write and talk about after every game, and not enough time for one person to write about it all, the Masthead joins together and writes about the thing that never happens finally happening.

New England Patriots v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images


This decade the Texans have lost to New England in every way a normal franchise—one that isn’t the Los Angeles Chargers--can. We’ve greeted death in all its forms. Turnovers and bad breaks. An inability to capitalize in the redzone. Shootout. Defensive struggles. Horrendous quarterback play. Offensive stagnation. End of game heartbreak. This time the scythe remained sheathed.

Houston spent its first two possessions establishing the run. They punted both times. Opportunity struck on the third. Birdshot popped the ground. Concentrated and compressed dinosaur remains boiled out from it. On 3rd and 4 Bradley Roby was lined up in man coverage against K’Neal Harry. He read the short dig the entire way and dug himself into Harry’s inside hip. The ball arrived. A pick. And he stumbled drunk and stupid to the goal line.

Now, Houston has been given gifts like these against New England before. This isn’t new or revolutionary. The difference between this game, and all the others, is what happened next.

After establishing the run to 3rd and 3 Houston kept Duke Johnson in the backfield. He ran a simple out route against Kyle Van Noy. Calling it simple is poor penmanship. Johnson is electricity. He jolted around Van Noy, who bit on the flat setup by Johnson, then took his route upfield before breaking to the sideline. Rolling right Deshaun Watson hit him in motion. 7-0. Houston Texans touchdown.

In previous years, at different locations, the Texans would not have done this. Johnson would be pass protecting. Or Watson would overthrow Darren Fells in the back of the endzone. Or Houston would run on 3rd and 3 instead. Here we go again. And we’d be stuck in the same place, reliving the same things. Time is a record stuck repeating the same tragedies just on different days. Longing for new experiences and beautiful things, everyday is the same.

7-3 became 14-3 and eventually became 28-22. This was something entirely new, and entirely beautiful. The interception was the shock, the touchdown the afterglow, and from that moment on, Houston would go on and do something they’ve done only once before, and have yet to do this decade, beat the New England Patriots.

Go Texans.



I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be wrong in all my life. I had a gut feeling the Texans would win, but my intellect overrode that with visions of history repeating itself.

First and foremost, Deshaun Watson is a beast. His first three touchdowns all came on broken plays when he escaped the pocket and found a receiver downfield. Watching him hit Kenny Stills for 6 after the Will Fuller TD was called back was awesome - then the crazy double-reverse, QB screen from D-Hop might just be my favorite Texans play of all-time.

The defense looked hungry and in control for most of the game (let’s not talk about the drive that let the Pats score their final touchdown), which almost made me forget about Clowney and Watt.

The monkey has been exorcised, Deshaun Watson is electric and Tom Brady got beat in NRG - life is good.



So there are a few things I want to talk about in this game. First, I watched most of it while consuming a breakfast burrito. I wouldn’t call it the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had (that honor goes to the one made by Harry’s Roadhouse in Santa Fe, NM), or even the second best. But it was a breakfast burrito and it got the job done.

Second, during the game, I saw an ad for the upcoming Bond movie trailer. Read that sentence again: there was an ad for a movie trailer. Not the movie itself. An advertisement to advertise another advertisement. We have now reached the point in our society where someone is willing to pay a lot of money to announce the impending announcement of the release of the presentation of a wholly fictitious series of fantastical actions to a bunch of overworked people who are using their increasingly rare free time to watch another group of people who are busily engaged in an utterly meaningless pursuit. Somewhere, Herbert Marcuse is doing pirouettes in his grave while composing limericks in tribute to Martin Heidegger.

Also, in the dying stages of this late-capitalist orgy of materialism, there was a football game and the winner of that game was the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien proved that running up the middle on first down is a winning strategy provided it is balanced out by: a well-executed defensive game plan; Tom Brady looking like dogmeat for just enough plays; Deshaun Watson’s continued ability to disapparate; and his willingness to call a play that was literally drawn up on a piece of paper by three buddies who were (probably) out at the bar. Sure, they might have said it was drawn up on a piece of “notebook paper” but we all know that the “notebook paper” was actually a cocktail napkin from Centerfolds. But whatever, they’re all grown men and I’m sure any contact was completely consensual. Frankly, I’d be willing to bet that Candee or Trixie or Scarlett was really the one that came up with the play, but who cares? We won, and, if we’re lucky, Roxy or Aymiee or Seka will have another great idea and we’ll see our guys line up in the veer with Ka’imi Fairbairn catching a TD as a tackle eligible and then spraining his ankle while attempting to surf the football as a celebration. And there will be an ad to announce the upcoming ad about the release of a trailer for a movie.



I went into this game with absolutely zero faith in the Texans. I thought that we would lose and lose big. I was pleasantly surprised at how well we played instead in getting a big win on Sunday Night Football. I like to believe that somewhere Carrie Underwood was watching the game quietly impressed as well.

The Texans looked like the better team. Obviously there is a lot to say about how well Deshaun Watson played but I’ll get to that in a second. I wanna start by pointing out how good the defense looked. True, the Patriots offense is not the juggernaut they once were but being able to stifle Tom Brady is always a good thing. At one point, Collinsworth mentioned that the Texans have morphed into a defense where the secondary is the strength. I thought he was joking but thinking about it more, it makes sense. We haven’t had a consistent pass rush since Watt went and the secondary has stepped up (relatively speaking) in a big way.

The offense looked crisp most of the night. Deshaun played out of his mind, but the most important development was watching Duke Johnson sprinting through holes in the run game. I love Duke Johnson and his game. If the Texans coaching staff can figure out how to continue using him in the run game, this offense will open up even more. He had a few runs where he was close to breaking them and you can tell that he plays at a completely different speed than Carlos Hyde. Not to take anything away from the incredible job Hyde has done this season but Duke should be getting more carries.

I loved the trick play, both its design and situation it was used in. I rewatched it a few times and each time thought, “wow, O’Brien has some stuff I never thought he could scheme up.” Turns out I was right. Not in a million years could O’Brien scheme that up and apparently it was handed to him on a piece of paper from Watson, Hopkins, and Johnson during the bye week. It’s telling that the offense players are coming up with more creative play designs than the offensive Head Coach. Draw whatever conclusion you will from that.

All in all, that was a good win against an overrated opponent.



Deshaun Watson, I truly believe, is the strongest player in the NFL today. His ability to carry the Texans, especially the coaching staff, is truly unreal.

Defensively, Romeo Crennel has taken a lot of flak this season, but his unit - aside from the Ravens game! - has consistently outplayed its profile on paper. Shutting down Tom Brady, even in the Patriots’ weakened offensive state, was still a remarkable performance. Also, when considering how the Texans management has gone all in on the offense, leaving Crennel scraps, it’s been an even more impressive performance.

The Texans have made a huge bet on the 2019 season by trading away most of their valuable draft capital in 2020 and 2021. Currently (not including yesterday’s game), the Texans sit at 18th in overall DVOA, and that sounds about right. That said, as long as Deshaun Watson is the QB, anything is possible. I don’t remember ever seeing a single player able to elevate his team as well as Watson.



After last night, in my humble opinion, there is a new list of the “top-three signature franchise wins” for the Houston Texans:

Defeating the reigning defending champion Patriots 28-22 in commanding fashion – December 1, 2019

Defeating the Bengals 31-10 in Houston’s inaugural playoff game – January 7, 2012

Defeating the Cowboys 19-10 in Houston’s inaugural game – September 8, 2002

I’m truly stunned and impressed by their performance last night. The score is not indicative of just how they dominated throughout the game. It was another slow start in the initial offensive series, and an incredibly stubborn consistency to run up the middle at the beginning of nearly each series thereafter, but creativity finally surfaced and delivered the excitement and results we all knew were possible with this roster. The defense did an incredible job in stifling Tom Brady and Julian Edelman. What a wonderful outcome that I never saw coming!

It’s been a LONG time coming for this franchise to finally knock down their biggest nemesis of the last decade. It’s time to smile, drink, and take a deep breath before a strong push to wrap up the regular season.

Bravo Zulu, Texans!!