Three things we learned in the Patriots' 27-0 drubbing of the Texans:
1. Defense and special teams were huge
Obviously. But for a defensive unit that was coming off a sloucher of a second half against the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, putting the nail in what was the franchise’s first shutout since the 28-0 rout of the Miami Dolphins in 2012 was a fine way to cement itself as among the best in the NFL. But anyone who understands Bill Belichick’s glee for special teams will understand why he was positively glowing (well, to whatever level you consider that to be) after the game over his kickoff team recovering a pair of Texans fumbles on the receiving end, leading to two of New England’s three touchdowns on the night. “Tremendous,” he said. “Tremendous. Field position was phenomenal. …We converted our scoring opportunities. The entire special teams unit, coaching staff, they did a tremendous job tonight.” Punter Ryan Allen, who had struggled to some degree over the first two weeks of the season, should also get individual kudos on the evening for pinning Brock Osweiler and the Texans inside the 20-yard-line with six of his seven kicks on the night. Houston didn’t cross over into Patriots’ territory until there was a little more than a minute left in the third quarter. Embarrassing effort for Bill O’Brien’s team, but one the Patriots forced them into all evening.
2. The Patriots might have the best three quarterbacks in the AFC East
OK, maybe that’s a stretch. (We said, “maybe.”) But it’s not very likely the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, or Dolphins could find themselves in a similar situation — down to their third-string quarterback who also happens to be a 23-year-old rookie — and come away with a win, let alone a 27-0 pasting of the opposition. Jacoby Brissett didn’t light the game on fire, completing 11 of his 19 throws for 103 yards, but his 27-yard touchdown run after New England’s first special teams recovery in the first quarter gave Foxborough a rarity it hadn’t seen since 1978. That’s when Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan pulled off a 41-yard-touchdown run against the Jets, still the longest for a QB in team history. It was a good night for the kid, only in the game because Jimmy Garoppolo was nursing his injured shoulder, while Tom Brady was serving out the third game of his four-game Deflategate suspension. No quarterback controversy, but a heck of an outing for a guy who may have opened some eyes around the league.
3. LeGarrette Blount is your fantasy football running back stud
Who would have ever thought we’d think such a thing about a running back in Belichick’s system? But Blount has been a monster so far this season, adding to his impressive totals with a night that saw him run for 105 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was a 41-yard scamper in the fourth quarter that put the ice on any distant Houston hopes on the evening. He also took time to pose with the honorary Minutemen for a photo opportunity. Blount, who averaged 4.4 yards per carry Thursday night, has often been criticized for not finishing runs, but it’s something he’s done impressively so far in 2016, mostly thanks to an improved offensive line with its revered leadership back in the fold. Blount Force ... well, you know the rest. Find him in your league and deal for him. (Stash Dion Lewis on your bench anyway, of course.)