The Patriots broke their two game losing streak Sunday Night, defeating the Houston Texans 27-6 to clinch their 7th straight playoff berth.
The Broncos and Bengals both lost today, which meant the Pats were back in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye.
The Patriots scored a touchdown on a Brady to Martin throw from 2 yards out and never looked back on the team’s second drive of the night. The score was set up when Brady scrambled right and found Gronk for a 45 yard gain. Brady threw a great pass on the run. Gronk did the rest. Gronk was back in action after missing just one game for a knee injury.
The Patriots offense struggled with pass protecting in the second half. They never let J.J. Watt beat them, double teaming him most of the night, but Clowney broke free more than once to rough up Tom Brady and get in on two sacks. The OL had its moment of looking very ugly, and again they were the main reason the offense was sluggish for most of the game. Gronk provided a bright light, however, catching four passes for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. His one touchdown came with 19 seconds left before halftime. He was one yard out and was lined up against a safety. He easily won that battle. Gostkowski connected on two field goals, so he’s still clutch and he made all of his PAT. James White scored on a two yard touchdown after the defense forced a turnover. Brandon LaFell and Amendola had an okay night, but they were very quiet overall. The Patriots are simply not protecting Tom Brady and the wide outs are not getting open fast enough, it’s making things a tad bit harder for Tom Brady. LeGarrette Blount was having a great night, but was injured during the first half, and did not return. Brandon Bolden took over for Blount and was a steady runner, and hard player to bring to the ground. He carried 16 times for 51 times. Blount had carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards.
The defense was outstanding. They allowed two first half field goals and then blanked the Texans in the 2nd half. They were all over Brian Hoyer, tallying 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. The Texans could not block Sheard all night, nor Aikem Hicks, who sacked the QB twice in the second half. The game was put on ice when Jabaal Sheard sacked Hoyer and stripped the football away, recovered by Brown at the 18 yard line. That turnover led to the James White touchdown. Earlier in the game, Sheard sacked Hoyer and stripped the football away but the Texans recovered. He was outstanding. Nink had a sack and Easley as well. Easley, McCourty, and Freeny were all injured during the game and nobody knows how badly. Logan Ryan was tasked with covering Hopkins with safety help and he was outstanding! Hopkins was targeted 6 times, catching 3 passes for 52 yards. It looks worse than what it actually was. His one big play came late in the game. Newcomer Leonard Johnson from the Bucs played in the slot and was outstanding. I think the Pats found their number three guy. Johnson was targeted 3 times and allowed one catch for -1 yards and 2 pass breakups. He had some sweet dance moves after his big plays. Jerod Mayo was really good tonight, he looked like his old self and Collins had another big game.
The defense is a Super Bowl type defense, no doubt about it. The offense can get better and hopefully will once everyone is healthy again.
QB Tom Brady: 22/30 for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. 4 rushing attempts for 10 yards.
RB James White: 1 rushing attempt for 2 yards and 1 touchdown. 4 receptions for 38 yards.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 4 receptions for 87 yards and 1 touchdown.
LB Jerod Mayo: 8 tackles.
DE Akiem Hicks: 6 tackles and 2 sacks.
LB/DE Jabaal Sheard: 5 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
DE Rob Ninkovich: 3 tackles and 1 sack.
DL Dominique Easley: 1 tackles and 1 sack.
LB Jamie Collins: 9 tackles.
Game MVP: LB/DE Jabaal Sheard.
He sacked the QB twice and forced a fumble both times. One of the fumbles was recovered by the Patriots at the 18 yard line, setting up a score that would put the Pats up 27-6 in the fourth and ice the game. He also had 5 tackles. What a huge game for Sheard. He’s a big reason why the Patriots were winners tonight.