Patriots wide receiver Damiere Byrd had himself a day against the Houston Texans, eclipsing 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
“Damiere is just doing exactly what he’s been doing all year pretty much in practice,” quarterback Cam Newton said Sunday after New England’s 27-20 loss. “For it to show up in a game is just what coach [Bill Belichick] always talks about. Practice, preparation, and execution turns into in-game reality.”
Byrd caught six of his seven targets for a game-high 132 yards, highlighted by a 42-yard touchdown grab. He also rushed for 11 yards on the second carry of his career.
Midway through the third quarter, Newton launched a deep shot to Byrd, who was able to track the ball and gain enough separation to make an over-the-shoulder grab right in front of the end zone. Upon crossing the goal line, Byrd immediately fired the ball into the stadium’s wall in excitement. He and Newton celebrated moments later by connecting their hands in the air to form a flying bird.
The impressive score was just one of Byrd’s big plays on the day. Five of his six receptions delivered gains of 15 yards or more. The only one that didn’t was an 8-yard, third-down play that still converted for a first down, thanks to his extra effort in fighting for yardage.
“Damiere has been doing a great job on those routes,” Newton said. “For him to keep coming downhill and for it to show up on game day, it just shows what he’s capable of doing.”
After the game, Byrd credited Newton for trusting in him. Both players are in their first seasons with the Patriots, though they were also previously teammates on the Carolina Panthers.
“I think I’m proving to myself that I can be consistent and that I can continue to improve week in and week out,” Byrd said. “My goal is just to continue to get better as the season progresses and play my best football in November and December and continue to find ways to help our team win games.”
While he’s pleased with his performance, Byrd insisted he would take the win over individual statistics.
“We lost the game, and that’s really what I’m there to play for, is to win,” he said. “If I had zero catches or if I had 15, it would still be about that for me.”
Bigger in Texas
Newton had a simple explanation.
“He’s J.J. Watt,’' said the Patriots quarterback, asked if he could pinpoint a reason why the Texans’ defensive end was able to bat down four of his passes Sunday.
Reminded that Watt doesn’t always post those numbers, Newton doubled down.
“He’s J.J. Watt. He’s an All-Pro, perennial All-Pro,” said Newton. “He’s a defensive player of the year, one of the best players in this generation. So, for us, it is what it is — they get paid, too.
“So, for us to go against that, I’m not saying we fold up the tent, but at the same time, they’re going to make plays and we just can’t get bent out of shape when that happens. We’ve just got to move on and still be able to move the ball like we did show sometimes today, but that’s not enough.’'
Newton’s numbers were solid (26 of 40, 365 yards, 1 touchdown) but it was the pair of sacks and the four deflections that will be remembered.
Watt, who has not played up to his normal brilliant standards this season, had a pair of tackles (one for a loss) and labeled his day “all right.’'
Still, the 6-foot-5-inch, 288-pound Watt posted a gif of famous shot blocker Dikembe Mutombo on his social media, indicating he felt his performance was more than all right.
Watt hopes the Texans defense, which has struggled mightily through this 3-7 campaign, will be sparked by its performance against the Patriots.
“Hopefully we can do that more to close out the season here,’' said Watt, who has 100 career sacks, but zero in seven games against New England.
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Newton rushes to the front
Newton rushed three times (for 6 yards) and now has 83 attempts on the season, setting a Patriots record for a quarterback that was previously held by Steve Grogan (81 in 1978).
Newton has 341 rushing yards on the season – Grogan (insert neck roll reference here) had 539 in ’78. In his 16-year career — all with New England — Grogan had 2,176 rushing yards.
Folk good for 17 straight
Nick Folk connected on field goals of 45 and 36 yards and has now connected on his last 17 attempts . . . Receiver Donte Moncrief made his Patriots debut and caught one pass for 15 yards. Tight end Jordan Thomas and defensive tackle Isaiah Mack (one tackle) also played their first games for New England.
Easterby reconnects with old friends
Texans vice president Jack Easterby caught up with a bunch of his old New England connections during pregame warm-ups, including lengthy chats with Ernie Adams and Brian Hoyer and hugs for several players including Joe Cardona and Rex Burkhead. Easterby was formerly the Patriots character coach and also participated in a midfield postgame prayer session with players from both clubs . . .Native Texan Gunner Olszewski’s name was butchered so badly in the press box during the first half (Dish-chef-ski and Why-chef-ski, to name a few) that he was eventually just referred to as No. 80 . . . Texans long snapper Jon Weeks played in his 170th game, setting a franchise record. He had been tied with Andre Johnson . . . The Texans lost receivers Randall Cobb (foot injury on his TD catch) and Kenny Stills (leg) in the first half.