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Third-string quarterback delivers first-rate win for Patriots

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The Patriots’ Jacoby Brissett scored on a 27-yard quarterback keeper in the first quarter.Barry Chin

FOXBOROUGH — No Tom Brady. No Jimmy Garoppolo. No chance, right?

More like no problem.

Jacoby Brissett stepped in at quarterback Thursday night and calmly and coolly led the Patriots to a 27-0 whitewashing of the favored — that's right favored – Texans at Gillette Stadium.

It was the third straight time the Patriots came up with a perfectly tailored game plan and Brissett executed it to near perfection.

The rookie introduced New England to the Brissett Bootleg, rushing for a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter and evoking memories of Steve Grogan, the man who made the bootleg popular in New England in the 1970s and '80s.


After scoring the touchdown, which gave the Patriots a 10-0 lead, Brissett jogged to the sideline where he got an enthusiastic helmet slap from play-caller Josh McDaniels. He then handed the ball to Bill Belichick, the man who had enough trust in the 6-foot-4-inch, 235-pounder to hand him the reins of the offense despite not having a legitimate backup.

On the play, which came after Brandon Bolden forced a fumble on a kickoff following a Patriots field goal, Brissett took off around right tackle and received a beautiful downfield block from receiver Malcolm Mitchell before diving into the end zone.

"I was just running until I got stopped,'' said Brissett, who rushed for 48 yards on eight carries and said Belichick returned the ball to him. "It worked out exactly how it was planned. Just had to make one guy miss at the end."

The Patriots scored again early in the second half, again recovering a fumbled kickoff following a field goal and cashing in. This time it was LeGarrette Blount punching it in from 1 yard out for a 20-0 lead that really felt like 200-0.

Brissett was at his best, however, on a pair of long drives that resulted in Stephen Gostkowski field goals. Brissett, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 103 yards, showed a confident, commanding presence at the line of scrimmage and if he was frazzled, he's the only one that knew it.


Video: Volin & McBride analyze Patriots-Texans

The first was a 10-play, 74-yard march in which Brissett went 3 for 3, his best pass a 27-yard connection with fellow rookie Mitchell on third and 2. The drive stalled when Brissett overthrew Rob Gronkowski on an end zone fade from the 6.

Brissett came up with another beauty to open the second half, leading New England on a 13-play, 71-yard marathon drive that culminated in a 25-yard Gostkowski boot that extended the lead to 13-0.

Blount put a bow on the beating — and his second straight 100-yard outing — with a 41-yard blast off left tackle for his second touchdown of the night.

"No,'' said Brissett, when asked if he nervous at any point during the night. "We're part of a great team, a great organization, and a lot of the veteran players stepped up and helped me out. The coaching staff really showed confidence in me and really everything went from there.''

Some other observations as the Patriots moved to 3-0.

 The defense was angry — and it showed.

Coming of a poor second-half performance against the Dolphins, the defenders played the entire game with a chip on their shoulders. Matt Patricia's crew was so dominant, the Texans' first play in New England territory came at 44-minute mark.


 Jamie Collins was the unquestioned leader.

Wearing the green dot in place of the injured Dont'a Hightower, Collins flew to the ball and snuffed out plays all game. He finished with 14 tackles and an interception.

 The cornerbacks were on lockdown.

Logan Ryan drew the unenviable task of blanketing the gifted DeAndre Hopkins (four catches, 56 yards) and he did yeoman's work — particularly in the second half when he held Hopkins to one catch for 16 yards. Hopkins was so frustrated he spent more time begging for flags than he did trying to get open.

"You play a guy like that you can't blink an eye,'' said Ryan. "You know he's going to get his, but playing guys like that helps bring my game to the next level.''

On the opposite side, Malcolm Butler was in Will Fuller's jersey from the get-go, holding the speedy rookie to three catches for 31 yards — just one in the second half.

 Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long wreaked havoc off the edge.

Sheard collected a pair of sacks and Long was a versatile force, applying pressure on Brock Osweiler and forcing hurried throws and harried decisions.

 Blount was a workhorse.

Just four days removed from a 29-carry, 123-yard effort, the bruising tailback collected 24 totes for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He had some negative plays but late in the game he lowered his shoulder and hurt people.

"LG's playing beast mode right now,'' said an enthusiastic Gronkowski.

 It was a special effort from the special teams.

In addition to the two forced fumbles on the kickoffs, punter Ryan Allen was in a zone. He punted seven times for a 47.6-yard average. Additionally, none of his punts were returned.


"We had a lot of guys that played well in that phase of the game,'' said Belichick. "A lot of guys."

 Houston’s Benardrick McKinney was exceptional.

Belichick said earlier in the week the second-year linebacker was developing into one of the league's best. He showed it Thursday night. He collected 16 total tackles and he'll be counting rampaging Blounts in his sleep tonight.

 J.J. Watt was invisible.

And it had nothing to do with those white uniforms. The exceptional defensive end is clearly not up to speed as he recovers from back surgery, registering just two assisted tackles.

"The Patriots played a great football game,'' said Watt. "They deserved to win tonight.''

Photos: Thursday night football at Gillette Stadium

Box score: Patriots vs. Texans

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride