On Monday night, the Patriots showcased just how dominant they can be when their team is running on all cylinders. The offense jumped the team out to a fast start and the defense played strong enough to keep them there by the end of the first quarter. If this team can move forward with this kind of momentum, the results in the stretch run could be excellent. On to the analysis:
- Has any nose tackle ever had a better half than Vince Wilfork did Monday night? He was an unstoppable force, often times breaking through double (even triple) teams to get into the backfield and make plays. He had a pass deflected, a forced fumble on an unbelievable hustle play on a third down, and he was the cause of numerous tackles for loss or no gain to keep the Houston running game from gaining any steam when it mattered.
- The Patriots secondary was excellent. Limited long plays and a blanket of coverage on Andre Johnson by multiple different corners helped to stifle the Texans’ passing game, and when you’re down by three touchdowns early, the passing game is how you get back into it. Schaub missed a few long throws, but for the most part, this secondary was all over Houston receivers. Even when catches were made, New England cornerbacks were all over the wideouts, making key tackles before the first down marker (Alfonso Dennard), breaking up third and fourth down plays (Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington), and laying out punishing hits to exposed receivers (Steve Gregory). The highlight of the night for the secondary came in the first quarter, as Devin McCourty made an excellent, instinctive read on Matt Schaub and made an athletic interception on the goalline to shift the momentum in the game for good.
- Jerod Mayo was an absolute force to be reckoned with this this game. He was in Matt Schaub’s face on passing downs numerous times, and these new creative, delayed blitzes are really maximizing his ability to be a play-making line backer. If he can continue to get into the backfield and cause problems, his stock will rise dramatically on this defense.
- Brandon Lloyd finally had his breakout game, as he hauled in seven catches on nine targets for eighty-nine yards and a long score. He was consistently open and made a few very athletic catches for first downs.
- Stevan Ridley showcased his ability on the big stage, consistently working away at the Houston defense, eventually cashing in on a fourteen yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Shane Vereen added forty yards of his own, and Danny Woodhead was excellent in pass protection and the short receiving game.
- Saving the best for last, Tom Brady was unbelievable on Monday and vaulted himself back into the MVP conversation, if not at the forefront of it. By the time the first quarter closed, he had already struck for three touchdown passes. He even managed to scramble for a first down late in the game, which brought back memories of the days of old. Brady’s completion percentage may have been less than ideal, but when you take a closer look at it, he was under fire all night, constantly getting abused by J.J. Watt and others on the Houston defense, but he managed to get rid of the ball effectively, only letting a big time hit by Whitney Mercilus turn into a sack. His ability to feel the rush and get the ball out to his hot receiver is unrivaled, and it was in full showcase on the national stage. If Brady continues to play at this caliber, the team should be able to secure its first round bye in the postseason.
- Aqib Talib matched up with Andre Johnson for the first half and played very well, but he left the game with a hip pointer. Alfonso Dennard took over those duties for the majority of the rest of the game, but he also left with an injury, forcing McCourty to drop down to corner. If either one of those guys can’t go on Sunday, the secondary could suffer.
- Dont’a Hightower had a decent game, but the one thing that continues to stand out to me is his sporadic ability to set the edge. Foster blew by him a few times on the right side, and he has to get better at that because of his limited pass coverage skills.
- Overall the line played well, but they cannot let Brady get hit that much. Sebastian Vollmer had a very subpar performance, as he got beat consistently by J.J. Watt. Understanding that he is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, I am willing to cut Vollmer some slack, but he let Watt get at least two clean releases on Brady, and when you practice all week to stop one guy on the defensive side, you absolutely have to know where he is at all times.
- Welker is still struggling with drops and as much as he is the best pass catcher on the team, he cannot drop some of the easy ones that he has been missing.
- Having to waste a timeout on the first defensive series of the game because of confusion with twelve men of the field, and then getting that penalty called on you inside the five, is a lack of discipline by this defense. They need to know their assignments and stay focused on the field.
The Patriots will take on the San Francisco 49ers in Foxboro next Sunday night; here’s to hoping the results are the same.
Tags: Houston Texans, Jerod Mayo, MVP, Negatives, New England Patriots, Positives, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork