Two of the most iconic wins in franchise history for the Patriots, Super Bowls XXXVIII and LI, have come in Houston, Texas.
Sunday night was not like one of those nights. For just the second time in 12 meetings between the teams all-time, the Texans got the best of the Patriots, boosting themselves in the AFC hierarchy while demoting New England with a 28-22 victory at NRG Stadium.
The loss drops the Patriots to 10-2, the same record as the Baltimore Ravens. However, since Baltimore won the head-to-head matchup against New England in Week 9, the Ravens assumed control of the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture.
Playing in a game of significance in Houston for the first time since their fateful matchup with the Atlanta Falcons -- the 28-3 comeback, if you recall -- the Patriots actually scored first, forcing a Texans three-and-out to begin the game before settling for a Kai Forbath 23-yard field goal.
Part of the problem with Forbath’s field goal was that it was the end result of yet another New England drive which stalled out in the red zone, an all too common theme in 2019 in a Rob Gronkowski-less world.
At least the drive produced points for the Patriots, because it would be awhile before they could string anything back together on offense.
Tom Brady was picked off by Bradley Roby on New England’s ensuing offensive set, which led to a Duke Johnson 14-yard touchdown pass from Deshaun Watson three plays later to take the lead for good.
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Following a Patriots punt, the Texans embarked on a 13-play, 88-yard drive -- the second-longest distance yielded by New England in 2019 -- which ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Fells.
Watson was brilliant for Houston, completing 17 of 24 passes for 237 yards and a third touchdown pass to Kenny Stills with 5:41 to go in the third quarter to make it 21-3.
Just like in Super Bowl LI, a touchdown pass to James White late in the third quarter gave the Patriots a sliver of hope. And just like in Super Bowl LI, the PAT on White’s touchdown reception was missed.
Forbath’s shank, which came from 38 yards out, came after the Patriots initially lined up to go for a two-point conversion and attempt to make it a 21-11 score. Instead, New England took a delay of game penalty.
White caught a second touchdown pass from Brady with 3:42 left in regulation to complete the night’s scoring. Though the Patriots got the ball back again, down two scores, their lack of urgency was apparent with back-to-back calls of draw plays to open the drive. Julian Edelman caught a touchdown pass with 0:50 left, but the Patriots failed to recover the ensuing on-sides kick.
Brady finished the game 24 for 47 passing for 326 yards, three touchdown passes and the pick, his numbers inflated by Houston's lackidaisical approach on defense in the final minutes. His three scoring throws were his most since Week 5 since Washington.
New England returns home next week to take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a 4:25 p.m. kickoff at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.