Tom Brady connected on 25-of-35 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns in a thrilling, 36-33 come-from-behind win over the Texans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
1. Circle of trust has a new member
Just when it seemed the Patriots might find themselves on the short end of back-to-back losses at Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2008, quarterback Tom Brady presented fans with yet another annal to put into his jar of comeback victories. Down 33-28 to a Houston Texans team that presented a surprising offensive attack behind rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson with less than a minute remaining, Brady found receiver Brandin Cooks in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the second touchdown for the newcomer on the day, to go along with 131 yards receiving, 42 on his dazzling display of speed after catching a Brady pass in the third quarter. After back-to-back games during which Cooks seemed to provide little more than a bit component in the Patriots’ offense, his speed and presence were vital in the 36-33 win over the Texans. Rob Gronkowski (89 yards, one touchdown) had the most catches for New England (eight), Chris Hogan had the longest touchdown reception (47 yards), but watching the trust between Brady and Cooks blossom in the process of victory was the most important development.
2. The defense ... ummm, rests?
The first, real indication that the Patriots might have been in trouble against the Texans came when running back Mike Gillislee failed to convert a fourth-and-one wth 10:38 remaining in the fourth quarter. That forced the trailing Patriots to punt the ball away, hearing boos at Gllette Stadium. So, while it was a thrilling win for New England, it’s somewhat tempered by the fact that the Patriots’ defense has been borderline horrific over its first two appearances at Gillette Stadium this season. Watson looked special, particularly during a Houdini escape in the fourth, but he also carved the Patriots up in just his second professional start (22-of-33, 301 yards, two touchdowns). The Texans amounted 417 yards of total offense, which figured to be an improbability for the Texans’ dormant offense over their first two games of the season. Are there some serious issues that need to be addressed with this Patriots’ defense? Or will we just blame the turf again?
3. Kneel on this
Frankly, it was the most Patriots to take a knee in Gillette Stadium since the later stages of last January’s rout over the Steelers in the AFC title game. There was some question as to how the bulk of the Patriots might respond to Donald Trump’s recent, harsh words for recent protestations of the National Anthem in the NFL. Team owner Robert Kraft released a statement earlier in the day proclaiming that he was aligned with the players’ freedom of speech. That was a semblance of unity that spread to field when a number of players, including Devin McCourty, Cooks, Malcom Brown, and Duron Harmon took a knee during the National Anthem presentation at Gillette. Brady stood, interlocking arms with teammate Phillip Dorsett, but a number of fans didn’t take kindly to the protest, showering the field with boos and shouting pleas for the players to “stand up.” As for the Texans, none of the players took a knee. As it turned out, Harmon took another knee following his game-ending interception. The fans cheered that one, of course.