AP/Eric Christian Smith
Okay, so, forget what we said last week.
Following an impressive performance against Baltimore, I wrote that any Bill Belichick coached team should never be counted out. Well, the Texans shut that down real quick.
Deshaun Watson single-handily destroyed the Patriot defense (380 total yards) and the New England offense wasted a chance to force overtime on the last possession of the game, ultimately falling 27-20 in a playoff path-crushing loss. New England is now 4-6 with another speedy quarterback in Kyler Murray coming to town next week.
“Disappointing outcome for us today,” Bill Belichick said postgame. “We had some opportunities throughout the course of the game and just couldn’t do anything with them.”
Part of the reason for that may be some mind-boggling play calling. Damien Harris carried the ball five times for 30 yards on the first Patriots’ possession of the game, including a 9-yard TD run to put the Pats up 7-0 after Houston punted to start the day. Stunningly, Harris only had six more times for 13 yards the rest of the day.
“No, I don’t think so,” Belichick replied when asked if the decision to basically stop using the team’s best weapon on offense was injury related since he had been on the injury report all week.
Watson (344 yards passing, 36 rushing) found Randall Cobb for a 3-yard TD pass after waltzing downfield the next drive to make it 10-7. New England’s poor offense needed 10 plays to move just 45 yards the next time they touched the field, settling for a Nick Folk 45-yard field goal with 8:32 left in the half to make it 10-3.
Watson methodically answered with an eight-play, 74-yard much, making it look easy at times before running it in from three yards out for a 14-10 lead. Houston went up 21-10 at the half on a late Keke Coutee 6-yard TD catch.
To his credit, Cam Newton (26-40, 365 yards) continues to do his best with minimal talent around him, and he threw an absolute dime to Damiere Byrd – who is easily Newton’s most trusted receiver – for a 42-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 21-17 early in the third. Byrd had a strong day with 132 yards on six catches, but that TD was really the only true chunk play.
“Damiere was just doing what he’s been doing all year,” Newton said. “That’s what he does in practice and for it to show up in the game, that’s just what coach talks about, practice, preparation and execution leads to in-game reality. Damiere has been doing a great job on routes…it just shows what he’s capable of on game day.”
A Ka’imi Fairbarin 36-yard field goal pushed the lead back to 24-20, but what happened next was a true testament to just how inept the Patriot offense is.
Newton proceeded to lead a 16-play drive that took up 9:25 and 65 yards, but it only produced a field goal from Folk with 7:39 remaining in the game. Fairbarin added another field goal with 4:11 left to make it 27-20, giving Newton and the offense one last chance at a game-tying drive.
The offense took over at the New England 25 and managed to move down to the Houston 24, but facing 4th-and-4 Newton was pressured – as he was quite a bit on Sunday – he tried to scramble and throw across the middle but the ball fell incomplete and any hopes of a late season playoff push rolled quietly across the turf in a stadium where some great memories have occurred for the Patriot franchise.
Now, New England’s playoff hopes are hanging by the thinest of threads as Murray, DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and the suddenly not-so-mediocre Cardinals come to Foxborough. It’s bad enough that teams like the Browns are getting further separation from Belichick and the Patriots in the playoff race, but these days even games against the (now) 3-7 Texans or teams like the Cardinals are no longer layups.
Strange, tough times indeed at 1 Patriot Place.
“We’ve just got to keep competing,” added Newton. “We had a lot of games just like we did today where we just came up with the short end of the stick. At the same time, the game didn’t come down to one play.
“We had opportunities in the first, second an third quarter prior to…leading up to that particular moment, we’ve just got to be better throughout the whole game offensively, defensively and special teams and we will.”