The New England Patriots are heading into Week Six of the 2021 NFL season with a 2-3 record. 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.
Prior to this Week Five matchup, Patriot Maven highlighted three players on offense and three players on defense which the fanbase might want to keep watch.
Let’s examine whether this six-pack of Patriots was ‘worth the watch’ on Sunday:
Ted Karras - Yay
With the Patriots’ down four designated starters along their offensive line on Sunday, most expected a rough day for both run and pass protection. However, New England’s ‘makeshift’ offensive line performed well, under the circumstances. Ted Karras admirably stepped into the right guard role, and helped to provide stability and veteran leadership along the line. The Patriots rushers were able to run the ball with a 39 percent success rate on the ground. As for protecting the quarterback, the Texans’ defense only managed four hits on Jones, surrendering one sack. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones was under pressure on 25.8% of his drop-backs against Houston; the second-lowest pressure rate allowed by the Pats this season. With Trent Brown temporarily sidelined, and Shaq Mason’s future availability in question, Karras may have played his way into a more significant role as the season progresses. Karras was also a force in run protection, providing the key block and coverage on Damien Harris’ touchdown run in the first half.
Damien Harris - More Nay, than Yay
While many will point to his miscue as evidence of a disaster out day, Harris ran the ball effectively, overall. The Pats running back would rush for 58 yards and one touchdown. Following his first touchdown run of the day, Harris looked poised to find the endzone once again, in a score that would have tied the game. However, he failed to properly secure the ball, which was punched out prior to his crossing the goal line. As a result, the touchdown was nullified and the ball was handed back to the Texans. The swing in momentum was a setback for the Pats. Harris saw his snaps decrease considerably after his costly fumble. Yet, he still contributed some strong runs in a pair of Patriots’ scoring drives. He left the game early with a chest injury, but quickly returned to the lineup. During the Patriots’ game-winning drive to seal the 25-22 victory, Harris took another tough shot to the midsection and left the game for good with a rib injury. Early evaluations show minimal damage, and Harris is reported to be day-to-day.
Hunter Henry - Yay
Henry led all Patriots’ receivers on Sunday with 75 yards on 6 receptions with one touchdown. He also seems to be developing quite the synergy with Pats’ quarterback Mac Jones. Henry was on the field for 62 percent of the Patriots snaps in Week Five, scoring the game-tying touchdown, Henry also was on the receiving end of some quick-hitting routes over the middle, and showed tremendous effectiveness off play-action concepts. Overall, it was a solid day of action for the Pats’ tight end.
J.C. Jackson - More Yay, than Nay
In the aftermath of the Patriots’ trading Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, many eyes within the fanbase were on Jackson in Houston on Sunday. The 25-year old got off to a rocky start. For starters, Jackson was called for pass interference when Texans’ receiver Brandin Cooks beat him at the break point, surrendering a completion on fourth-and-short. His most glaring mistake came on a mistiming of his jump on a would-be interception of Texans’ quarterback Davis Mills. With the ball sailing just over his outstretched arm, Houston would take it to the endzone for a 67-yard touchdown. While that would be enough to condemn most defensive backs, Jackson was able to right the ship. He maintained strong coverage on Cooks for the remainder of the day, limiting his productivity. Though he has struggled in such coverage from time to time this season, Jackson performed well in playing press-man against the Texans’ receivers.
Christian Barmore - Yay
Barmore continued to see increased snaps, and has been effective in aiding the Patriots pass rush. His ability to push the pocket has likely earned him a regular spot in the interior of the Pats defensive line. On Sunday, Barmore more than held his own, matched up with Texans’ center Justin Britt. The rookie showed great field awareness in beating his opponents’ blocks and even drew a hold against the Houston lineman. Barmore’s ability to rush the passer will continue to make him a key contributor to New England’s front seven
Josh Uche - Neither Yay, Nor Nay
Through three games played in 2021, Uche has compiled five tackles, three quarterback hits and three sacks. However, on Sunday, the Michigan product saw the field sparingly, playing on only 14 of the Patriots 59 defensive snaps. Uche has been dealing with a back injury since Week Three, when he missed the Pats matchup with the New Orleans Saints. Uche was limited in practice heading into Week Four against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The second-year linebacker was active last week, playing in 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. In Week Five, against the Texans, Uche did not register any statistics.