FOXBOROUGH — Houston enters Sunday’s game on a nine-game losing streak, but the Texans will have their opponent’s undivided attention at Reliant Stadium, according to Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
“Just because they’re 2-9 doesn’t mean they’re going to come and hand us the win,” Talib said. “It’s football. Any given Sunday, you’ve still got to line up, you’ve still got to prepare. We treat it like it’s any other week. We’ve got a great coaching staff, they don’t let us [overlook an opponent].”
Talib, a Texas native, is impressed with the Texans’ offense, which features big-play receiver Andre Johnson and quarterback Case Keenum. Johnson and Keenum have connected on seven completions for at least 25 yards; Keenum has 15 such completions this season, or 17 percent of his passes that have been caught. Only the Eagles’ duo of Michael Vick (20.8 percent) and Nick Foles (18.4 percent) have a higher percentage of 25-yard pass plays.
On Keenum, Talib said: “He can get out of the pocket, he can move the pocket around, he’s got a strong arm, he can make a ton of throws — across his body, across the field — that a lot of quarterbacks won’t be able to make.”
On Johnson: “You always look forward to going against great receivers.”
The Patriots’ secondary has combined for 12 interceptions through 11 games, and is coming off one of its better games, holding Denver’s Peyton Manning to a season-low 150 yards passing in Sunday’s 34-31 overtime victory. Still, Talib had no interest in talking about how well they’ve performed so far.
“Oh man, the job is far from done,” Talib said. “We don’t look at it like, eight weeks, we’ll applaud ourselves. We’re just trying to be successful this week against Houston.”
Watching Steelers coach Mike Tomlin jump out of the way during a kickoff return against the Ravens Thursday night — Tomlin was watching the play on the stadium’s videoboard, and said he lost track of where he was, which was in Jacoby Jones’s path to the end zone — prompted a question to Bill Belichick: Has the Patriots’ coach ever been in harm’s way on the sideline?
“Yeah, I’ve been blown up a couple times. There’s one play in particular where I was kind of watching the pass rush of the front and the ball was thrown. I didn’t really follow the ball that quickly and all of a sudden the guy caught it and was right on top of me and [I] ended up under the Gatorade bench,” Belichick said. “Obviously we have to give the officials and the players room to play. Sometimes that just happens where you get guys caught up a little bit on the sideline. But yeah, I saw the play [Thursday] night. I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah.’ That could easily happen to any of us. It’s a good lesson, I have to be careful.”
Tomlin’s right foot was in the field of play, and his back was to the action. Jones had to break stride and was tackled after sidestepping Tomlin, pointing a he-can’t-do-that finger at him in an attempt to get the attention of a referee. No penalty was called, though.
Alfonzo Dennard questionable
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard returned to practice Friday, one day after sitting out with a knee injury, and was listed by the Patriots as questionable for Sunday. The Patriots ruled three players out: offensive lineman Marcus Cannon (ankle), tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), and receiver Aaron Dobson (foot). None of those three players practiced this week. Dennard and six others were listed as questionable, including safety Steve Gregory, who has missed the last two games with a broken thumb . . . In addition to Talib, a number of Patriots have connections to either Texas or the Texans. Danny Amendola grew up in The Woodlands, a Houston suburb, and played at Texas Tech. Rookie receiver Josh Boyce is from Copperas Cove, Texas, and played at Texas Christian, the same school as Cannon, who is from Odessa. Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett is from Texarkana. Rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones was drafted by the Texans in the sixth round and spent training camp with Houston before being released . . . Something else players were thankful for this week: there were no fines to report from Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game.