The probable loss of Wes Welker for the season makes this a disasterous afternoon for the Patriots. Worse yet, the team imploded on the road in the 4th quarter again...as the Pats allowed the Texans to put up 21 unanswered points, in an ugly 34-27 loss.
This morning, I read an article by one of the few New England area sportswriters whom I hold in high regard, Jim Donaldson of the Providence Journal. Having watched this game, and the Patriots all season, Donaldson seemed prophetic in his assessment of the team: http://www.projo.com/patriots/content/sp_fbn_jim_donaldson03_01-03-10_OOGVTFM_v3.278031c.html
Here are my grades: A.) OFFENSE:
After dominating the Jaguars last week, the OL went back to their woossy ways today in Houston...and particularly in the 4th quarter. Though Julian Edelman performed admirably in his stead, losing Wes Welker was a horrific blow to the "O". 1.) QB:
Well, now we know whats' been ailing Tom Brady. Playing with three broken ribs has to be painful. That said, today was a prime example of how a QB is only as good as his OL allows him to be. When Tom had the time, he was magnificent. Unfortunately, for most of this game, he was under heavy pressure. It didn't help that the ultimate safety valves, Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk, weren't at his disposal. Tom's 4th quarter interception was ugly. But, I'm hard pressed to pin it on him, considering the fierce pressure he was under by Mario Williams. Brian Hoyer flashed potential. But, I can't understand why, on a 4th and 4 with 18 seconds remaining, that he would throw a 2 yard pass? GRADE: C-;
As was the case with the QBs, today was a prime example of how a RB is only as good as his OL. I became ill watching Patriots' RBs constantly get hit behind the line of scrimmage all afternoon. A combination of a poor hand-off exchange and wimpish blocking led to a Fred Taylor fumble in the end zone, costing the Pats a TD. As was the case with the QBs, I'm hard pressed to pin too much blame on the RBs, considering the horrific play of the OL.GRADE: D;
After doing an adequate job in the first three quarters, this group completely fell apart in the 4th stanza. The pass protection was awful, as Mario Williams dominated the line of scrimmage. The run blocking was even worse, as the Pats running attack was non-existent. The result? The Pats were unable to close out yet another road game...this time blowing a 14 point lead in the final 10 minutes.GRADE: F;
4.) TEs and WRs:
Ben Watson got involved early, but disappeared as an option in the second half. This was because it was once again necessary to hold him in, to aid the pathetic OL in pass protection. Randy Moss could have been more of a weapon than he was, if Tom Brady was given a little time to find him. As stated above, Julian Edleman filled in for Wes Welker well, contibuting 10 receptions for 103 yards.GRADE: C;
After performing reasonably well in a "bend but don't break" mode for three quarters, the wheels completely came off the the 4th quarter. NT
Vince Wilfolk and DE Ty Warren were noticeably missed. A non-existent pass-rush led to the secondary getting exposed, yet again.1.) DL:
Whoever filled in for Wilfolk and Warren should turn in their paychecks. For the most part, Texans' QB Matt Schaub was given all day to throw, as he completed 24/39 passes, for 303 yards. The boys up front were pushed around by the Texans' mediocre OL in the 4th quarter. That being the case, the Pats' "D" allowed Houston, a team with statistically the worst running game in football, a 100 yard rusher...as rookie Arian Foster rushed 20 times for 119 yards:GRADE: F;
Though OLBs Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain had their moments, they were too few and far between. Adalius Thomas continued on his crusade to play his way out of New England. There were also a ton of missed tackles by the usually dependable ILB duo of Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton. Failure to contain on screens and running plays led to several big gains:GRADE: F;
Darius Butler giveth, and Darius Butler taketh away. After covering fairly well in the first half, and an alert tip-drill pick, which he returned 92 yards for a TD, Butler was torched in the 4th quarter by mediocre WR, Jacoby Jones. Lots of tackles by the safeties, James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather. They were needed to stop Foster, who was constantly breaking into the secondary. Too much cushion was given up to Houston receivers, underneath. The Patriots can proudly point to holding all-pro Andre Johnson to under 70 yards for the game, thanks to some fine work from veteran CB Shawn Springs. But, short passes to RBs, TEs, and slot receivers proved to be a death by 1000 cuts. The Pats "D" couldn't get off the field on 3rd down, as Houston converted several 3rd and 9-12s. Schaub simply was given too much time to throw.GRADE: C; C.) SPECIAL TEAMS:
Other than a 51 yard FG by Stephen Gostkowski, this unit was horrible. As has been the case all year, the Pats got nothing from their kick return and punt return game. Kick coverage was terrible, as the Pats allowed an avverage of 36 yards per kick-off return. The Jacobi Jones 30 yard punt return led to an easy Texans' TD, to tie the game at 27...setting up the eventual Houston win.GRADE: F;
BB is sure to be criticized by the national press for playing his top players. But, Wes Welker got injured on the Patriot's first series, on a play where he blew out his left knee, making a cut. In contrast, ol' Horseface played most of the first half in Buffalo, and came out unscaved. Folks...thats' just an awful case of bad luck.
But, where I do question Bill was his decision to replace Tom Brady with Brian Hoyer, after the Pats had made a fine goal-line stand against the Texans. Why start off the inexperienced Hoyer in such a horrid situation? The result? Some poor blocking, and a messy hand-off later, Fred Taylor fumbles, and the Pats hand the Texans a TD.
Obviously, the Pats need more talent on defense. But, one must wonder whether Dean Pees is the right man for the job. We've seen these 4th quarter implosions far too many times this year. Its' been years since a Patriots' team has been so inept at closing out games:GRADE: D
E.) PLAY OF THE GAME:
The 31 yard punt return by Jacobi Jones, which set up the game tying score.
F.) GAME BALLS:
Arian Foster, Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Jacobi Jones.
Here are the game stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=300103034