My birthday again. Here it is again. The last remnants of the decade, and while I twirl my hair, twenty-something life. The brain compacted, compressed, and molded in my skull this decade, is starting to solidify, and grow gray and rigid and oblong. I’m here. I’m me. I got it. My feet are starting to stick in the swamps of my ways.
Waking up from a late night after seeing the same rapper from Gary, Indiana, in the same floppy hat tattooed city, at the same blinding long and narrow venue, and wishing I stayed home and watched The Irishman instead. I’m up until 4 a.m. Living out The Trial, but rather than escape conviction from a crime I didn’t know I did, or what I did, I’m wandering through bright orange striped hamburger restaurants, for a hamburger I don’t even want, all because I went along for the ride. I should have thought about time, how impersonal and easy mob hits are, ice cream, and that the only things that matter are love and the relationships we have with others. That would have been different. I should have woke up this morning and watched Casino or Taxi Driver, picked up my big dog wife, and gone to the gym. That would have been better. Short term pleasure easing discomfort; erasing long term desire. Take me to January.
Draw four dots on a piece of paper. Fold it into four separate squares. End up in nearly the exact same place, just slightly different shapes. The same days, doing the same things, just slightly different. One number changes on the calendar. The marble is back in the same place. The change in enough dates to shift the season brings back the same events and same feelings. Go to work. Pay the bills. Create the content. Atlanta v. New Orleans. Thanksgiving football. Meeting up with old friends. So I guess we’re just doing this all over again.
All to remain comfortable, protect the bones when they get hollow and filled with bugs, and some vague future dreams. I stare out my Taco Bell window and see the Creosote and Ocotillo. I probably just need to sleep more.
Tonight it’s going to be more of the same thing. The Houston Texans play the New England Patriots. A December tragedy repeated in a variety of ways all reaching the same conclusion. Houston losing. The crescent moon laughing. This decade there has just been a general end result mundanity to this team. 9-7. AFC South Championships. Divisional Round playoff exits. Talent ruined by quarterback decisions. Talent ruined by injuries. Talent mired by conservative game planning. Repeating the same things in a slightly different way.
This is the worst Patriots team Houston has faced, and a game they should win if they used their three through seven pass catchers well, scored touchdowns in the redzone and muted the glories hollering from the all field-goal offense, picked up third down blitzes, stayed aggressive, and murdered the run establishment. I wish I wrote a game preview. Friends and families. Turkeys and holidays. Cake and birthdays. It’s 7:00 p.m. already.
Sure, you have to ESTABLISH THE RUN.
Second down incompletion. 3rd and 10 against a statistically all-time great pass defense. Chris Clark and Zach Fulton, composing the right side of the offensive line, can’t pick up the stunt.
The Patriots’ offense has been sick. They no longer have the dominant power run game. Nobody has missed anyone as much as New England misses James Develin creating lead, power, and counter, oceans to swim through. Well except for how much they miss Rob Gronkowski. Without him their redzone passing offense is sour. Tom Brady is 16/35 (45.7%) and has thrown 7 touchdowns to 1 interception inside the ten yard line. Ball at the five, Jakobi Meyers can’t get to the pylon. No one is open on third down. Field goals are monstrous moments.
ESTABLISH THE RUN. Carlos Hyde had seven first down rush attempts for eight yards. They ran on their first seven first downs.
A change to Duke Johnson made it slightly better. It still doesn’t mean it’s good.
2nd and 4 becomes 2nd and 14 after a Laremy Tunsil holding penalty on a run play for no gain. This becomes 3rd and 6. Tunsil helps inside. The linebacker drops back. Kyle Van Noy runs free and right around him. Two drives. Two punts. Down 0-3. Share a drink, a look, a kiss. Oh no it’s happening again.
Brady goes to work. Hair bright brown, chestnut, freshly died. Someone missed that white chunk in the front. He sees 3 v. 4 on the right. Looks left. Bradley Roby jams a knife deep into N’Keal Harry’s hip. Interception. Drunk and stumbling to the endzone. Sniffing the goalline. A helmet take off celeberation moves the ball back. That was such a problem in like 2003.
I can still see A.J. Bouye doing the same thing. I can still see Danieal Manning using landscape vision and returning the opening kickoff inside the ten yard line. Those moments became field goals. This one didn’t. Duke Johnson cut a flat route up the field, and escaped from the jam. Rolling right. Easy Deshaun Watson touchdown. Something that has never happened before just happened. IT’S ON.
Jacob Martin is a pass rusher. He runs around Marcus Cannon. Brady limbos under his rush. Brady runs a marathon.
3rd and 6. Brady expects Myers to run upfield after his out takes him to the sideline. He doesn’t. He gives up on it. The ball hits the ground. 7-3 stays 7-3.
Houston changed their offense up. Finally a first down pass. It leads to Watson dodging a John Simon (remember me?) sack, becoming water, moving with the tidal wave, and sucking back to the beach. Make the tackle next time. Stop complaining. This is what you ESTABLISH THE RUN for.
Instead of running and spreading things out on third down, they went heavy personnel, and quick passed the Patriots to death. Darren Fells. Duke Johnson. Jordan Akins. DeAndre Hopkins. All made catches on this drive.
It all culminated into a fullhouse set. Someone’s been watching the Baltimore Ravens, and how Greg Roman uses their athletic quarterback and multiple tight ends. Patrick Chung runs with Akins. The first linebacker plays Watson. Dont’a Hightower strafes and isn’t prepared. Fells runs past him to turn the flip into a touchdown. Akins blocks Chung to ensure it. 14-3.
Expectations, I had none. Now here they are. Bubbling and popping inside my gut. This could happen. It was still fuzzy though. I’ve seen too much of everything else that has ever happened before. New England getting the ball and scoring before the end of the half. Houston killing the clock. New England scoring again. New England getting the ball at the start of the second half and scoring again. Playing from behind. One dimensional offense. Bad turnover. The route was on.
Martin sprinted past Cannon again—this time the pocket was clogged with hair and glued shut—he journeyed across the entire Earth to take Brady down. This never happens. Receivers are open. The ball is out clean, crisp and quick.
New England punts. Houston runs out the clock some. COWARDS. New England gets another shot with 1:05 left. This drive chokes on itself at Houston’s 39. Benardrick McKinney wriggles his way into the throwing lane and deflects the pass. James White is open. Time has folded upon itself and flipped over. Brady has become Matt Schaub in 2012. Running an offense that can move the ball, but can’t get into the redzone.
Halftime 14-3. I hung out on a good friend’s couch. The things that never happen when these two teams played are happening. Houston scored a touchdown after the Roby interception. New England’s offense was stalling outside the redzone. No one was open. The hurry up rushing attack didn’t exist. Houston had the lead. I chewed my nails until I chewed my fingers off waiting for an upcoming Will Fuller second down deep shot.
The premonitions of two before the half scores, and an opening second half score didn’t become reality. These were fatalistic aspirations drawn out from all the darkness coagulated in my heart from such a long and devastating past. Houston confused Isaiah Wynn by blitzing Roby instead of Zach Cunningham.
On their next possession, instead of doing the thing that always works, Brady sneaking an inch forward to pick up an easy first, the Patriots ran a play action pass. Desperate for a deep shot they took one in an unexpected situation. Mohamed Sanu pulls it into his body. Johnathan Joseph is able to slap it away.
The telecast showed Watson with a tablet looking at screenshots, watching gifs, talking to his receivers. Saying things like when the safety does this take off. I was dying for it. My fingers were in my stomach. My palms were bloody tea time saucers. Jonathan Jones v. Will Fuller. Chasing immediately. The mop is in the bucket. The heart in the throat.
The ball skittered out. I could see [NAME REDACTED], in all white, dressed as a scythe, making one competent throw, and having the exact same results. I could see Watson in week one, throwing a double covered interception to Vyncint Smith into the back of the endzone.
3rd and 10. Don’t look down. No way they do it again. Kenny Stills turns a post into a deep corner. Watson runs up the pocket and makes the best throw of his career. From this angle. Moving like this. Right over Jones again. What’s his ProFartballFocus grade again?
I can’t stop watching this.
I don’t care that Hopkins was bracketed, that New England rushed four and kept a safety along the line of scrimmage to spy Watson, that Fuller was stacked with Hopkins right, that Akins wasn’t called for a holding penalty when they sometimes call this a holding penalty, that Jones came down in press coverage right before the snap, that there wasn’t a safety in the deep middle, and that all of this combined together to leave Stills alone. I just care the throw that never becomes a completion finally did.
New England answered back. They converted a 1st and 30. A James White touchdown catch looked just like a Dion Lewis touchdown catch.
After the touchdown, the Patriots lined up to go for two to try and make it a ten point game. They took a delay of game penalty. The perfect Patriots who never make any mistakes made an enormous mistake.
Kai Forbath, the bottom of the hardrive, hadn’t kicked a field goal in a NFL game this season. He was left to kick a 37 yard extra point. Of course he missed.
Reality is a lie. Reality is a myth. The speckled clumps of it that come together that do, are in shambles, and are so very fragile, but come on now. The Patriots are now the Texans and the Texans are the Patriots. Nothing makes any sense. And I doubt anything ever will again.
Some other things happened. The pinata busted open. Cocktail napkin playcall. Stick in the dirt playcall. The detonation code playcall. Double hand off. Pitch. Dive for the pylon. Devious, diabolic, demonic, tricky-tricky, trickery.
28-9 became 28-22. But those things don’t matter. Lonnie Johnson Jr. was picked on. James White became the Patriots best receiver. Brandon Bolden almost flipped an onside kick to himself. A big lead became a one score game. The Patriots did what the Texans typically do. Comeback and make a game closer than it actually was.
I walked back home from my good friend’s house. The moon was crescent, bright and hot. A freshly clipped hunk of toenail clattering across a black bathroom floor. Finally. It happened. This thing I’ve always wanted to have happen happened. Big bouncy steps. The ground is a big red balloon castle. This heart is light and full.
It looked like New England’s defense kind of figured them out in the end. They still keep trying to establish the run. Jacob Martin, JACOB MARTIN, is their best pass rusher. Stop that. A rare turnover changed the entire complexity of this game. There’s no way they can beat Baltimore. That doesn’t matter. The Kansas City game was strange because of the strip sack. Patrick Mahomes is healthy. Is there anything substantial to take from this game moving forward? Finally something new and different. The end to everything previously. That same constant dumbness and numbness. Soon this decade will die and I can’t wait. Break the scratched CD in half. Tear the collage of newsprint from the wall. It finally happened.
1-8. A point differential of -114. 2010-2019.