Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy’s over-confidence in the Patriots’ chances this weekend has provided the Houston Texans’ with some bulletin board material ... as if guys like Arian Foster, JJ Watt and Andre Johnson needed any extra motivation following a 42-14 Week 14 beat down courtesy of the Patriots in Foxborough.
Thankfully, the New England Patriots are smarter than Shaughnessy and will not be viewing Sunday’s game against the Texans as a “layup” or "second bye."
“We know [the Texans feel like they owe the Patriots one after that Dec. 10 game],” Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork said Tuesday. “They didn’t play their best game. They know that and we know that. Come Sunday we are expecting their best. It’s all or nothing from here on out and for us; we have to be able to execute. If we don’t execute, we’ll have troubles.”
Wilfork said Houston’s success starts with its running game and all-pro running back Arian Foster.
“It starts with [Arian] Foster – the more touches that he gets, in the passing game or on the ground, the better that team is,” Wilfork said. “But I’m pretty sure they’re sitting down there saying, ‘You know what? They played us in the regular season and things didn’t go well.’ We basically outplayed them and they feel that they are a better football team and they are a better football team. There’s a reason that they’re in the postseason and there’s a reason that we’re in the postseason.”
Foster showed the world he took exception to Shaughnessy’s column by changing his Twitter avatar to a screenshot of the following excerpt from the Globe columnist’s commentary:
"The 2012-13 New England Patriots just became the first team in NFL history to get back-to-back byes before advancing to the conference championship game.
Could this get any easier?
I mean, seriously? The planets are aligned and the tomato cans are in place. The fraudulent Houston Texans are the only team standing between the New England Patriots and a trip to the AFC Championship game. All the Patriots have to do is beat the terrible Texans. One week from Sunday. At Gillette Stadium."
Regardless of outside influences, Wilfork knows the Texans will be fired up for Sunday’s game.
“I think [the Dec. 10 loss to the Patriots] will give [the Texans] more momentum or give them more of an edge that they will want to come back up here and face us and try to beat us in Foxborough,” Wilfork said. “We can control what we can control, and that’s going to be practice and working hard and trying to fix little kinks and stuff.”
Wilfork said the team had two good practices last week and will spend this week focusing on its game plan and execution for Sunday.
“It’s going to come down to execution – that’s what it’s going to boil down to. A bunch of guys making plays – who can make the most plays and who can execute well. That’s what this game is going to boil down to,” Wilfork said.
It won’t come as easy as Shaughnessy predicts, though, as Wilfork expects to see the Texans throw “the kitchen sink” at the Patriots Sunday.
“I expect to see the best,” Wilfork said. “Whatever they have, I expect to see it – the kitchen sink if it’s called for. But last week you saw why [Foster] is one of the top offensive players in the game – not just a back, but a top offensive player in the game – the things that he can do with the ball in his hands in the pass game and running it. He’s a great blocker when they ask him to block. I mean he’s a special player and we understand that. We know it starts with their running game. I mean you can’t x-out the receiver, Andre Johnson, you can’t x-out [Owen] Daniels, you can’t x-out the quarterback [Matt Schaub] and you can’t ex-out their Pro Bowl size. They’re well put together and the last time we played them, they didn’t play as well. So, I’m pretty sure that they’re going to come out here fired up and ready to play this week.”
Patriots’ special teams captain Matthew Slater agrees.
“I think it’s important for us not to rely on our past game [against the Texans] and expect this game to go the same way,” Slater said. “It’s nice that we know their personnel, know how they feel out there, going against those guys, competing against them but we expect it to be a totally different ballgame. We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend and we know we’re in for a fight.”
That fight kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Gillette Stadium in the AFC divisional round. The winner advances to the AFC Championship game on Jan. 20.