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Special teams (1 out of 5)
Never thought I’d see the day the Patriots blew a game solely on special teams, but this was almost it. Outside of his poor punt before halftime, Zoltan Mesko was terrific. Yes, roughing should have been called for contact to his plant leg, but that’s no excuse for the punt. On the opening 94-yard Texans kickoff return, it looked like either Marquice Cole vacated his lane or Tavon Wilson didn’t replace him properly. On the 35-yarder (with the not-needed horse collar tackle from Stephen Gostkowski), Niko Koutouvides didn’t get off a block and Bolden gave up the edge. On the 69-yarder in the fourth, Tracy White and Matthew Slater acted as if they were clearing for another player, possibly Cole, but he lost leverage coming down the field and wound up right where Slater was.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Situation: Trailing, 24-13, with 4:30 left in the third quarter, the Texans were aiming to make it a game with a third and 8 at the Patriots’ 37-yard line on a nineplay drive that included a third-and-16 conversion.
What happened: The Patriots were in their dime package with Tavon Wilson (27) on the field and Jerod Mayo (51) the lone linebacker. Texans H-back James Casey (86) went in motion and Mayo made an audible against the shotgun empty (no backs) look. After some moving around, Justin Francis (94) and Trevor Scott (99) were the ends, and Kyle Love (74) and Rob Ninkovich (50) were the tackles. At the snap, Mayo rushed around the left tackle and Wilson came on a delayed blitz after slightly rerouting Casey. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) thought the middle would be vacated, but Ninkovich replaced Mayo as the middle linebacker after faking a pass rush. Schaub either didn’t see Ninkovich entirely, or just made a poor throw as Ninkovich made a leaping interception to end the drive, and set up a touchdown for the Patriots that made it 31-13.
ON HIS GAME
Shane Vereen, running back
He did a little bit of everything, averaging 5.9 yards per rush (with a touchdown), caught five passes for 83 yards (and two touchdowns), deftly picked up four blitzes, and broke three tackles for 42 yards. Terrific coming of age game.
OFF THEIR GAME
Kickoff coverage unit
This group had a hand in three kickoffs that were returned 94, 35 (plus a 15-yard penalty), and 69 yards to almost single-handedly keep the Texans in the game.