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Texas-One-Step in the Right Direction: Patriots Defeat Texans 25-22

The Patriots rebound from a dismal start to erase a 13-point second half deficit to improve to 2-3 on the season.

Heading into Week Five of the 2021 NFL season, much of the talk surrounding the New England Patriots centered around their depleted offensive line. Missing four of their five regular starters due to injury and illness, the prospect of protecting the team’s running game and passing game seemed to be a nearly insurmountable task.

However, the Patriots makeshift offensive line held up as well as could be expected. Despite some questionable coaching decisions, and occasional sloppy play, the Patriots made the plays when most needed. Quarterback Mac Jones completed 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The rookie showed tremendous poise in leading the team on what would be his first game-winning drive as the Pats would come from behind to defeat the Houston Texans 25-22 at NRG Stadium. Damien Harris would rush for 58 yards and one touchdown, while tight end Hunter Henry led all receivers with 75 yards on 6 receptions with one touchdown.

For the Texans, rookie Davis Mills had an impressive first half, throwing three touchdown passes, and getting solid contributions from receivers Chris Conley (3 receptions, 84 yards, one touchdown) and practice squad standard elevation Chris Moore who led all Houston receivers with 109 yards on five receptions with one touchdown. Still, the Pats were able to get to Mills, with linebackers Matt Judon sacking him twice and Jamie Collins notching another sack in his return to New England’s defensive lineup.

With the win, the Patriots improve to 2-3 on the 2021 NFL Season.

First Half Highlights

The Texans lit the scoreboard at NRG Stadium on their first drive. Houston’s offense kept compiling first downs, with a plodding, clock-draining first drive, spanning 79 yards on 18 plays. Mills converted an eight yard pass to running back David Johnson on 4th-and-2 for the first down to extend the drive. Mills would cap the drive with an 11-yard touchdown strike to tight end Anthony Auclair. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn would miss the point-after-try, but the Texans would strike first.

Texans 6, Patriots 0

New England answered Houston’s scoring drive with one of their own. The Patriots executed seven of their ten plays as runs on this drive. With Jones in motion, Damien Harris used the block by offensive lineman Ted Karras to make a tough run into the endzone. Like Fairbairn before him, Folk would miss the extra point. Still, the Pats had tied the game at six.

Patriots 6, Texans 6

The home team wasted little time in re-taking the lead. The Texans found the endzone on a 67-yard strike from Davis Mills to receiver, and practice squad elevation Chris Moore just over the outstretched hand of cornerback J.C Jackson. Fairbairn once again missed an extra point, yet the Texans were once again on top.

Texans 12, Patriots 6

The Patriots were seemingly poised to answer the Texans scoring drive by turning the first half into a shootout. Jones would once again lead the Pats on an impressive eight-play, 77-yard drive including a 23-yard completion over the middle to tight end Jonnu Smith off of a play-action fake. Harris appeared to have tied the game at 12, with a five yard run. However, Texans safety Terrance Mitchell was able to punch the ball loose before Harris crossed the goal line, and the Texans recovered. Originally ruled a touchdown, the call would be overturned and Harris’ fumble (his second of the 2021 season in the red zone) returned the ball to Houston.

Texans 12, Patriots 6

The Texans would capitalize on the Patriots miscue, with a 15-play, 65 yard drive, taking over seven minutes off the clock in the second quarter. On 4th-and-2 at New England’s 44-yard-line, Mills completed a deep right pass out of the shotgun to Chris Conley for a gain of 40 yards. However, with the Texans threatening to once again find the endzone, linebacker Matt Judon collected two key sacks of Mills, giving him 6.5 sacks on the season. Fairbairn would connect on a 33-yard field goal, as the Texans extended their lead.

Texans 15, Patriots 6

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From second and 10 from their own 36, Jones nearly connected on a deep shot to Jakobi Meyers. However, Meyers would drop the ball, which may have led to a big-yardage gain, and perhaps a score. The Pats would need to settle for a field goal, where Nick Folk connected on an impressive 52-yarder as time expired in the second quarter

At the half…Texans 15, Patriots 9

Second Half Highlights:

With possession of the ball to start the quarter, Jones would attempt to complete a pass intended for receiver Nelson Agholor under pressure from Texans’ defensive lineman Roy Lopez. The throw would be ill-advised, as Houston defensive back Lonnie Johnson would intercept Jones’ pass. Taking over at New England’s 44-yard line, the Texans would make quick work of the Pats’ defense. Executing a flea flicker, Mills would complete a 37-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley, giving Houston a commanding lead.

Texans 22, Patriots 9

Following an errant attempt for disguise, Texans’ punter Cameron Johnston would short punt the ball out of bounds, giving New England the ball at Houston’s 36-yard line. However, the Patriots would only be able to muster three rushing yards on three straight attempts. Nick Folk would connect on his second 52-yard field goal of the day, cutting the Texans’ lead to ten points.

Texans 22, Patriots 12

The Pats would again call upon Folk to put points on the board on a seven-play, 47-yard drive. Jones would complete a 21-yard pass to tight end Hunter Henry, as well as a 20-yard connection with Nelson Agholor. However, the Pats would not be able to forge much more, as Folk capped the drive with a 32-yard field goal.

Texans 22, Patriots 15

New England once again found the endzone on their first drive of the fourth quarter. The Pats would utilize the tough running style of both Harris and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson to advance the ball. Jones would finish the drive with a 13-yard strike to Hunter Henry to tie the game at 22.

Patriots 22, Texans 22

New England may not have struck first, yet they would be the last game standing on what was largely a sloppy day of football from both teams. Still, the Patriots would demonstrate timely execution and solid clock management on their final offensive drive, on a 15-play, 84-yard drive, highlighted by a field-opening 24-yard run by running back Brandon Bolden. With 1:56 remaining, it was believed that the Pats had taken a six-point lead on a four-yard touchdown run by rookie Rhamondre Stevenson. However, an illegal shift penalty (called against Jonnu Smith and Jakobi Meyers) would nullify the touchdown. The Pats would drain as much time as possible from the clock in the remaining snaps, before Folk gave the Pats the 25-22 lead, by connecting on a 21-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in the game.

Despite getting the ball for one last gasp, Houston was unable to convert either of their two plays in the closing moments of Week Five.

FINAL: Patriots 25, Texans 22

Injury Watch:

Damien Harris left in the latter portion of the third quarter with a chest injury. He was immediately listed as questionable to return. Harris would return to the game to start the fourth quarter, before leaving again in the middle part of the period. Harris’ injury would later be classified as a rib injury.

Both Davon Godchaux and Carl Davis dealt with in-game knee injuries, as the pair of nose tackles would trade time on the stationary bike on the sideline, with the other taking the field in his stead.

Next Up:

The Patriots return home to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts to host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 4:25pm ET.