Since 2010, the Patriots are perfect in the second half of the season. In fact, they haven’t lost a December home game since the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Superbowl back in 2002. Yes, that long ago.
Houston tried to ignore the numbers. They talked up yesterday’s game and entered Gillette Stadium boasting the AFC’s best record. Instead, they were forced to face reality—the Patriot’s astounding late-season numbers are the real deal. As other teams fade, New England just gets better.
It was the Patriot’s most complete win of the season. They made adjustments early and often and kept a potent Texan’s team off the scoreboard until mid-way through the 3rd quarter. Houston's Matt Schuab, who many expected would leave Foxborough the latest quarterback to enter the elite circle of passers, looked bewildered. Unable to rally his offense, he finished with a paltry 232 passing yards, 1 interception and an embarrassing QBR rating of 19.1.
The Patriots set the tone early. After the Texans failed to move the ball on their first drive of the game, receiver Wes Welker took the ensuing punt 31 yards to New England’s 44-yard line. Seven plays later, Tom Brady threw a quick screen to tight end Aaron Hernandez for the game’s first touchdown.
However, the play of the evening might have been made at the game’s outset. After the Texan’s Arian Foster railed off two, 10+ yard runs, Bill Belichick called a quick timeout 40 seconds into the first quarter. Something seemed not so right, and the Patriots adjusted. The Texans quickly went 3 and out and their run game wilted indefinitely.
Then, the Patriots kept rolling. Houston threatened only once in the first half and that drive was negated by a costly interception by safety Devin McCourty in the end zone. Brady soon followed up with a 37-yard touchdown to receiver Brandon Lloyd, who had split the safeties, and later finished an 8 play, 70-yard touchdown drive to Hernandez.
With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, New England had already rung up 21 plays, for 154 yards, 13 first downs and 3 touchdowns. Brady finished the first half 13/19 for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Because no lead is ever safe in today's NFL, the Patriot's kept the pressure on Houston. In the second half, the defense continued to swarm Schuab and Foster and they contained star-wide out Andre Johnson. The Texan’s defensive end and current candidate for Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt finished with no sacks and no passes defensed.
(Side note: The Texans have deflected 36 passes this season. They failed to deflect a pass in yesterday’s game.)
Many had questioned the Texan’s ability to stand tall under the bright, hot lights and with the world watching. They now fly home knowing three things. One, they still hold and are in control of the number 1 playoff seed. But they have also surrendered 40 points in both of their losses this season and their last three opponents have a combined record of 25-14.
As the Texans limped out of Gillette Stadium amidst crying MVP Chants—not for J.J. Watt—but for well-deserved Tom Brady, the Patriots were instead the team that appeared ready to make a serious push for their sixth Superbowl appearance in the Brady-Belichick era.