Again, I CAN’T FIGURE this team out. If I am frustrated, imagine being Bill Belichick right now? His throwing down of the headset near the end of the first half is an apt image of how all Patriots fans are feeling. To be so close against Seattle, Denver, Buffalo, and now Houston and coming up short every time, for a myriad of different reasons, is so foreign to us who have watched this team over the last 20 years.
I’ve been hard on Cam Newton in this space but he wasn’t the problem on Sunday in Houston. The passes getting batted down are a result of lack of execution around him and exposes a flaw in his game relative to his mechanics. If his mechanics were sound, he may be able to slide subtly in the pocket to find throwing lanes. Cam can change arm slots, but when your feet aren’t always where they are supposed to be, that is difficult to pull off on a consistent basis.
We now know that Cam is a dart thrower not so much a passer, but the deep connect to Byrd was a ‘Vintage Cam’ type throw.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Rough afternoon running the ball against Houston who came in last in the NFL in run defense. Early success led to the closing of holes, and after a few Damien Harris outside runs, the Texans did a great job of defending the run inside and out. Good to see James White get 57% of the snaps, as he’s as much a running back as he is a wide receiver. I feel terrible for Rex Burkhead and hope it is an injury he can recover from and continue his career, however, is anyone surprised he broke down or got injured?
WIDE RECEIVERS: B-
The N’Keal Harry offensive pass interference call in the first half took the Patriots out of the scoring zone, and created a 2nd and 17 leading to that drive ending in a field goal. His second penalty came on the first offensive play of the 2nd half and created a 1st and 20 that this offense couldn’t overcome. Inexcuseable to be coming out of the locker room, and make a first play mistake. Took the air out of that balloon. Damiere Byrd had a tremendous catch on his 42 yard touchdown. It was good to see him get some touches as Jakobi Meyers will now draw attention from opposing defenses.
TIGHT ENDS: B-
I felt at times Izzo was overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage with in-line blocking. He was used a lot in motion for down blocks and handled those well. The biggest contribution on offense was 59 yards worth of receptions. I hope that can continue.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D
There were issues is protecting Cam Newton both against a natural 4 man pass rush and when the Texans blitzed. I also thought this unit got worse as the game went on and the issues snowballed. Penalties, missed chop blocks that led to batted passes, inconsistent run blocking on 1st down. And to make matters worse, Isaiah Wynn got dinged late in the 4th quarter. It was a rough and inconsistent day at the office for this unit.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
While the pass rushers did a nice job, on the whole, of keeping pass rush integrity and boxing in DeShawn Watson, no one ever got home for a sack. Lawrence Guy and Deitrich Wise each got to Watson, once. And the few times this unit was close to Watson, he slid out of the pocket and kept the Texans in a good down and distance unlike the Patriots offense. I also don’t see why folks are making such a big deal about Chase Winovich. Nice player, great guy, but he had 2 assists. What’s the fuss, fans?
This is really a Ju’Whaun Bentley grade as he played by far the most snaps at the position. Nice job against the run, wasn’t too exposed in the passing game. When the team plays so many defensive backs on this consistent a basis, the role for this position changes game to game.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: D
6 receptions of 20 yards or more, 1 reception went 44 yards. Almost every defensive back allowed a big play. In fact in the official NFL Gamebook, on those 7 plays, there were 7 different tacklers who eventually brough the receiver down. This unit has done a great job against tight ends this season, got torched by Aikns, Brown, and Fells for a combined 9 receptions for 134 yards. Must tackle better.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Nick Folk handled what he needed to and has a nice streak of made kicks. Jake Bailey handled kickoff and punts well. And no huge field flipping returns on either side.
3 THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1) With Rex Burkhead injured, and Sony Michel in waiting, how does the coaching staff dole out the playing time? Especially since Rex was used in a such a specific role.
2) Will younger players start getting more reps so that the 2021 evaluation process can begin?
3) Keep an eye on Kyle Duggar. The more he plays, the more you see that he’s being developed for the role Adrian Phillips is currently in right now.