The Patriots saw their two-game win streak stopped Sunday, as the Texans took a 27-20 win over New England at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Patriots were driving for what would have been a potential game-tying score with fewer than two minutes to go, but Cam Newton was harassed into a bad throw on fourth down.
Newton finished 26-for-40 for 365 yards with one touchdown. Damien Harris had 11 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, and Damiere Byrd had six catches on seven targets for 132 yards and a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, Watson accounted for the bulk of the Houston offense. He had a team-high five carries for 33 yards and one rushing touchdowns, while going 28-for-37 for 344 passing yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots fell to 4-6, while the Texans improved to 3-7 with the win.
New England looked to be in command early, taking leads of 7-0 and 10-7 midway through the second quarter. But the Patriots shoddy tackling and an inability to execute on offense lead to back-to-back Houston touchdowns before the half to give the Texans a 21-10 edge after two quarters.
Things improved for New England in the third quarter, as a 42-yard pass play from Newton to Byrd — one of the best-looking offensive plays of the season for the Patriots — cut the Houston lead to 21-17.
After two Texans’ field goals and one from New England made it 27-20, that set the stage for the end of regulation, a sequence that saw the Patriots get all the way to the Houston 24-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. New England got the ball back with nine seconds left after a Texans’ punt, but a Hail Mary for Ryan Izzo fell short.
Here’s how the game unfolded:
Houston wins - 4:08 p.m.
That’ll do it. Texans win, 27-20.
Texans back up by 7 - 3:46 p.m.
The 46-yarder is good, and the Texans are up 27-20 with 4:11 to go in regulation. Houston did a great job keeping that drive alive on a few occasions, and ended up coming away with an important three points along the way. That last drive featured a pair of sharp passes from Watson to Will Fuller, who had two catches — one for 20 and another for 14 — got the Texans into New England territory. The Patriots, now trailing by seven, are angling to stay in the one. Will they go back to Damiere Byrd, who has had an impressive second half? Or will we see more work for James White. We will see.
Pats cut Houston’s lead - 3:36 p.m.
Nick Folk is now 17 for his last 17 — this one from 36 yards — and it’s 24-20 with 7:39 to go in regulation. Damiere Byrd has been big for the Patriots here in the second half, especially on that last drive. He sparked the New England offense with a nice grab that went for 19 yards. I loved his extra effort on his first third-down conversion — that extra burst forward that allowed the Patriots to move the chains and keep the drive alive. He picked up another third-down conversion with a 16-yarder. He has six catches on seven targets for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Texans respond with third-quarter FG - 3:18 p.m.
Holding the Texans to a field goal isn’t optimal, but under the circumstances, it’s a win for New England. It’s 24-17 with 2:04 left in the third quarter. It’s still a one-score game, and the Patriots can remedy that on their next drive. The margin for error is growing slimmer with each passing possession, but New England is certainly still capable of seizing command on its next couple of possessions — let’s see how the Patriots’ offense answers here.
Burkhead ruled out - 3:09 p.m.
Byrd leads bounce back - 3:05 p.m.
It was a Damiere Byrd drive right there — a nice 30-yarder over the middle to Byrd provided a spark for the New England offense, and Newton hit him with a perfectly placed ball over the shoulder a few plays after that for 42 yards and the touchdown. It’s a great response for a New England team that really needed it. Let’s see if the defense can get them the ball back. It’s 21-17 with 8:14 to go in the third quarter.
Pats D gets big stop - 2:56 p.m.
Important stop there by the New England defense, which forced the first 3-and-out of the afternoon from the Houston offense. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was just carted to the locker room. It’s 21-10, but New England will get the ball on its own 18-yard line with 10:57 left in the third quarter.
Burkhead down - 2:52 p.m.
Ugly looking play there where Burkhead went down. Don’t know the severity of the situation just yet, but that scream that was audible on the broadcast is a bad sign. Pats now have Harris and White in the backfield, while Burkhead is in the blue tent.
Another penalty for Harry - 2:46 p.m.
Not a great two-plus quarters for N’Keal Harry -- two penalties and no catches.
Halftime takeaways - 2:31 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books in Houston, and the Texans have a 21-10 lead on the Patriots:
Cam Newton: 7-for-13, 85 yards
Damien Harris: 8 carries, 39 yards
James White: 3 catches, 43 yards
Deshaun Watson: 4 carries, 30 yards; 18-for-23, 241 yards, 2 TDs
Brandin Cooks: 4 catches, 85 yards
Here are a few quick takeaways:
•The Patriots’ offense was clicking on its’ first drive (1o plays, 84 yards), but has been relatively sluggish since then, including a 3-and-out at the end of the second quarter the Texans turned into a late touchdown. (It reminded me a bit of their hideous first-half finish a couple of weeks ago against the Jets, on both sides of the ball.) Offensively, negative yards or busted plays on first and second down in the second quarter played a role — it’s hard to find success running it on third-and-long, for example — but as a whole, it’s something that needs to be looked at heading into the second half.
•From an individual perspective, no surprise here — Harris has run the ball hard here in the first half. He did well making something out of nothing in the early going as the Texans looked to stack things up front in hopes of slowing the ground attack, but he also did well when things opened up. Another very good start for the youngster out of Alabama, who picked up his second rushing touchdown of the season in the first quarter.
•More trickery from Josh McDaniels, as the Patriots unleashed another double pass which resulted in a 20-yard pickup from Newton to Meyers. I like seeing this every week — keeps the opponent on its toes, and is capable of delivering a nice jolt to the offense.
•The Texans can’t get anything started on the ground at all. Part of that is because of injury to David Johnson, but their passing game is really sharp this afternoon. They have five pass plays of 20-yards or more, and Watson has delivered some absolute dimes, helping carry the Houston offense in the early going. That, combined with some shoddy tackling on the part of the Patriots, has left New England in a hole after two quarters.
•Good afternoon so far for New England’s special teams. Nick Folk converted his 16th straight field goal attempt in the first half, and Jake Bailey has executed nicely as well. As a group, the kick and punt teams look like they both have a clean sheet after two quarters.
•The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half. A strong answer to start the second half would go a long way toward setting the stage for a comeback.
Texans go up 11 - 2:27 p.m.
Bad end-of-half football for the New England offense and defense there, as a Patriots 3-and-out led to a punt, and some terrific work by the Houston offense led to a touchdown with 10 seconds left.
Watson impressive - 2:03 p.m.
I know the Texans have to run the ball to make it look respectable, but the Houston passing attack — as we mentioned before — has enjoyed some success this afternoon, thanks in large part to the work of Watson. On their most recent drive, the 25-yard pickup from Watson to Akins was such a perfectly thrown ball, a neat little touch pass that was placed perfectly to give Houston the nice completion. That was followed by a 21-yarder to old friend Brandin Cooks to get the Texans into the red zone. Watson put the capper on the drive with a 4-yard burst up the middle to make it 14-10 Houston with 3:54 left in the first half.
Folk connects again - 1:54 p.m.
The 45-yard field goal from Nick Folk is good — his 16th straight made FG attempt — and it’s 10-7 with 8:32 left in the first half. There was more razzle-dazzle on that drive for New England, who dipped into the playbook for a 20-yard pickup on a double pass play that saw it go from Rex Burkhead to Newton to Jakobi Meyers. Newton is 6-11 for 85 yards, Harris has 8 carries for 39 yards and James White has 2 catches for 43 yards.
Pats get the ball back - 1:44 p.m.
Adrian Phillips has played well all year, and has been in the center of things over the first quarter-plus today. He was in the middle of a minor scrap in the early going, and just now, almost came away with that interception. Good start for the veteran, who is looking more and more like a natural fit in the New England system. The Pats will get the ball at their own 29-yard line -- the game is tied at seven with 13:45 to go in the half.
Cobb questionable - 1:36 p.m.
Sloppy series for Pats - 1:33 p.m.
Not a great sequence there for the Patriots, who punted the ball away after an inefficient series that included a pair of negative runs and a near decleating of Cam Newton. The offense is going to hear it on the sideline after that. It’s tied at seven with 1:20 to go in the first quarter. Newton is 4-7 for 56 yards, while Harris has 7 carries for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Watson ties it up - 1:27 p.m.
Deshaun Watson has been making some really sharp throws here in the early going, and we saw a couple of them on that successful drive for Houston. A 44-yarder from Watson to Brandin Cooks was a dart that set the Texans up nicely. That was soon followed by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Cobb. Watson is always a handful to defend, but he appears to be particularly on point when it comes to the passing game here in the early going. It’s tied at seven with 3:36 to go in the first quarter.
Harris powers Pats - 1:18 p.m.
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead on a 9-yard run from Damien Harris with 6:52 left in the first quarter, a steady, efficient drive for New England that culminated in the first touchdown of the day. The Texans are stacking the box up front here in the early going, a pick-your-poison approach that has allowed the Patriots to take to the air with some success. A 34-yard pickup on a screen pass to James White got the offense moving. (It was the second-longest pass play of the season for New England.) That was followed by a 17-yard pass play to Damiere Byrd to keep the chains moving. Harris did end the drive with five carries for 25 yards, but however they were able to do it, it was a really good opening drive for the Patriots’ offense to give them an early lead.
Pats get the ball - 1:09 p.m.
Good start for the Patriots, who held the Texans’ offense to their side of the field and forced a punt. Look for New England to run the ball early and often this afternoon against a hapless Houston run defense. It’s scoreless with 12:54 left in the first quarter.
Old-timers day - 1:03 p.m.
The combined age of Bill Belichick and Romeo Crennel is 141 years old -- the CBS broadcast just noted it’s the oldest coaching matchup in NFL history.
Pats win the toss - 1:01 p.m.
Patriots win the toss and defer. TIME FOR THE FOOSBALL!
Official Price Prediction - 12:41 p.m.
When it comes to predictions, let’s start here: I love the way New England has played for the last game-plus, and believe the Pats can build on that going forward. At the same time, there’s no margin for error the rest of the way, and that includes this afternoon’s game in Houston against the Texans. As bad as things have been for them the last couple of months, Houston is still a dangerous team with a lot of talent. But New England is in a good spot to get its third straight win this afternoon. I think Damien “The Hammer” Harris continues to run the ball well, the Patriots play turnover-free football, and end up with a 27-17 win over the Texans this afternoon.
Patriots remain 2.5-point favorites - 12:14 p.m.
Patriots are 2.5-point favorites in this one, and I like them to win straight-up and cover the spread. A few good notes from the gang at Odds Shark:
•Houston is 2-8 straight up and against the spread in its last 10 games.
•New England is 8-3 against the spread in its last 11 contests against Houston.
•New England is 8-1 straight up in their last 9 games against Houston.
Who should Pats’ fans root for? - 12:02 p.m.
We’re going to include the pregame rooting guide for Patriots’ fans before the start of the action every week. This week, as New England aims to get back to .500 and become a player in the postseason chase, the choices for New Englanders are pretty cut and dried in these five games that figure to have the biggest impact on the AFC playoff picture:
•Titans (6-3) at Ravens (6-3): Tough one for New England fans. Maybe a tie? The Patriots now hold the tiebreaker on Baltimore, so it’s probably best to root on Tennessee.
•Eagles (3-5-1) at Browns (6-3): Patriots fans are going to be pulling for Philadelphia, as a Cleveland loss would draw them closer to New England.
•Dolphins (6-3) at Broncos (3-6): If Denver beats Miami and the Patriots get past the Texans, New England would be only a game behind Miami.
•Packers (7-2) at Colts (6-3): if the Patriots take care of business, a Green Bay win over Indy would get New England closer to the Colts in the playoff chase.
•Chiefs (8-1) at Raiders (6-3): Kansas City could help out the Patriots with a win over Las Vegas.
Good day for football - 11:52 a.m.
Reports indicate they are opening the roof at NRG Stadium today in Houston, which means it’s supposed to be nice in Houston. According to our pals at weather.com, we’ll see highs in the 80s today with almost no threat of rain. Good day to stay hydrated.
Four things to watch today - 11:47 a.m.
Courtesy of the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s a look at four numbers to watch today:
•Damien Harris enters Week 11 looking for his first stretch of consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. The last Patriots running back to put together consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the regular season was LeGarrette Blount with 123 yards rushing vs. Miami (9/18/16) and 105 vs. Houston (9/22/16).
•With one more rushing touchdown this season, Cam Newton will become the 11th Patriot to rush for double-digit TDs in a single season and first since RB LeGarrette Blount set a franchise record with 18 rushing TDs in 2016.
•With his next interception, Devin McCourty (28) will tie Ron Hall, Roland James and Fred Marion for third all-time in Patriots history with 29 career interceptions.
•RB Rex Burkhead has six total touchdowns in 2020 (three rushing touchdowns & three receiving touchdowns), second to the career-high eight touchdowns (five rushing and three receiving) he had in 2017 with the Patriots. He needs one more receiving touchdown to set a single-season career-high with four.
Inactive analysis - 11:40 a.m.
The Patriots have announced their inactives for today — here’s the list, and here’s what it all means:
First, the good news — after an extended stretch on the sidelines because of a bad knee, cornerback Stephon Gilmore is good to go.
Now, for those who will be out for today’s game against Houston.
•Sony Michel was activated, but is still out for this afternoon’s game. Damien Harris remains the lead back for New England. We wrote (semi-jokingly) last week that Michel could very well have been Wally Pipped but while the Patriots shuffle their backs on a regular basis, it appears they are remaining with the hot hand in Harris, at least right now.
•Undersized running back J.J. Taylor is an odd case. The UDFA was able to provide a nice jolt for the offense at times earlier in the season, but hasn’t been able to get off the bench the last few weeks. He’s another healthy scratch.
•Defensive back Myles Bryant has been a healthy scratch for a large chunk of the season, and will be again for today’s game.
•Defensive lineman Adam Butler’s shoulder had him limited all week, and was questionable heading into today’s game. No surprise he is on the shelf. Look for New England to do more shuffling up front to replace Butler, who has started to flash more as a three-down player after starting his NFL career as more of a pass-rush presence.
•Wide receiver Isaiah Ford, who was an in season pickup for the Patriots, wasn’t on the injury report all week, which means he’s another healthy scratch. Two thoughts here: one, this could mean New England feels some optimism about the health of N’Keal Harry. And two, he could still be getting up to speed in the Patriots’ offense.
•Not that there was much of a doubt before, but another healthy scratch for Brian Hoyer means he’s solidly entrenched as the third quarterback on the depth chart behind Cam Newton and youngster Jarrett Stidham.
Jackson headed for big day? - 11:22 a.m.
Today, J.C. Jackson has an opportunity to intercept a pass in a sixth consecutive game. Jackson, who leads the NFL with six interceptions, is the first player with an interception in five straight games since a five-game streak by Reggie Nelson in 2015. Since the 1970 merger, the NFL’s longest streak is six games (seven times, most recently Brian Russell in 2003.
Signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Jackson is on pace to become the first NFL player with double-digit interceptions since the Chargers’ Antonio Cromartie had 10 in 2007. With 14 interceptions in his first three NFL seasons, Jackson is in rare company. Since the merger in 1970, only three undrafted players have had more interceptions over their first three NFL seasons.
Back to work for Cam - 11:14 a.m.
Back at it today - 11:11 a.m.
We’re back to football again today as the Patriots get set to square off against the Texans, with kickoff at 1 p.m. New England (4-5) will be trying for its’ first three-game win streak of the season, while Houston (2-7) is just trying to finish the season with a modicum of dignity. We’ll have all the news you’ll need here, all afternoon long, with the latest from Houston, as well as betting news, a check on some games that might impact the Patriots’ playoff chances, and injury analysis shortly after 11:30. But first, we’ll start things -- as usual -- with the pregame reading list.
Pregame reading list - 11 a.m.
Christopher Price can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.