By Alex MacDougall
BU News Service
The city of Houston, Texas, is known for many things, such as Tex-Mex cuisine, NASA’s Mission Control Center and the hometown of Beyoncé. But when it comes to football, the city has more of a checkered reputation.
In a state where football is something akin to a religion, Houston’s professional football teams have been remarkably underwhelming. The Houston Oilers never reached a Super Bowl and then left the city for Tennessee in 1997. The new expansion team, the Houston Texans, haven’t done much better in their 17 years of existence. But you wouldn’t know that watching Sunday night’s game against the Patriots.
The Patriots made the first score of the game on a field goal from Kai Forbath, their fourth kicker of the year, but from then on out, it was all Houston. Tom Brady’s frustration was noticeably visible as the offense failed to put anything meaningful together for most of the game, save a touchdown drive in the third quarter on a pass to James White, the extra point of which was then missed by Forbath.
Since their loss against the Ravens in Week Nine, the offense’s ability to perform has been called into question, and the doubters have been only been given more reason to be skeptical.
Defensively, it wasn’t much better for the Pats. Houston quarterback DeShaun Watson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass, which was then reversed after the player was ruled out of bounds.
And what did the Texans do afterwards? They ran more or less the exact same play again – and the player stayed inbounds this time. Houston’s offense, mirroring Baltimore’s performance, seemed to be able to do what it pleased.
If there’s anything positive to take from this game, it’s that you never really can count the Patriots out, as they rallied from being down 28-9 late in the fourth quarter, and nearly recovered an onside kick to potentially score a winning drive. But they did not, and the Texans pulled out an upset victory of 28-22.
The loss has real consequences for the Patriots. They’re now ranked second in the AFC, behind the Ravens, and with the Buffalo Bills snapping at their heels they can’t even be safe of their normally secure AFC East division title.
And the schedule isn’t getting easier. The Patriots return to Foxborough next week to face the Kansas City Chiefs, another offensive juggernaut which racked up 40 points this week against the Raiders.
If the Patriots can’t figure out how to solve the NFL’s more complex offenses, and if Brady continues to operate at a tepid pace, then this team may be in more trouble than their 10-2 record suggests it is.