1. Vince Wilfork – Worth his weight in platinum last night. Made the Texans adjust their blocking schemes.
2. Jerod Mayo/Donta Hightower – A monster night for the two backers, who ran free and mashed ball-carriers. The rookie Hightower finally rebounded off a couple of mediocre efforts with five solos. Mayo was beaten badly early by Arian Foster on the opening drive and on the second drive, then spent the rest of the night atoning. He led with six solos.
3. Devin McCourty – Game-changing interception with Houston driving and the Patriots up 7-0. Might have been the biggest/best play of his Patriots career.
4. Brandon Lloyd – Received single coverage and punished the Texans for it. Caught seven balls on nine targets for 89 yards and a score.
5. Tom Brady – The best in the business, right now. Hit 21 of 35 for 296 yards and 4 scores without a pick. Was knocked around in the pocket a little bit, but exuded courage like you dream about.
6. Donte Stallworth – There should be some kind of bonus structure for catching a 63-yard TD within seven days of signing with a team.
1. Stevan Ridley/Danny Woodhead – Fumbles, one apiece. That cannot happen here or any time after this. Three fumbles on the year for Ridley, and that still scares me.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (B-) … Tom Brady will feel the six hits he absorbed last night. There wasn’t a ton of room for the backs, who averaged 4.4 yards a carry. No excuses. Everyone was back. But Brady has to be protected better.
Running Backs (B) … I thought Shane Vereen ran best in his 8-rush night. Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead both gave up the rock — luckily it fell into friendly hands both times.
Tight ends (Inc.) … Nothing at all from Visanthe Shiancoe or Daniel Fells
Wide Receivers (A) … Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez each were exceptional outside on a night when Wes Welker drew bracket coverage much of the time. Even Donte Stallworth contributed.
Quarterback (A+) … Did he miss a throw? Sure. But he never does on third down. “I don’t think I’m perfect out there,” said Brady after his 125.4 passer rating last night. The Texans might beg to differ.
Line (A+) … Vince Wilfork ruled the domain last night. Nice supporting work from Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love and Rob Ninkovich as well.
Linebackers (B+) … The front four made life easy, and both Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower delivered a big one. Mayo came on as the game unfolded. His second superb week of green-dogging or delaying his blitz as he reads the coverages. Hightower’s wakeup call could be the best news of the week for this defense.
Secondary (B+) … Look, Kyle Arrington interferes on every ball thrown his way. But it’s starting to work as the officials will only call so many fouls. Just keep hacking Kyle. The coverage can’t be considered tight, anywhere, but they again showed opportunism with Devin McCourty’s interception. Most of all, they mixed packages and looks enough to seriously confuse and fluster Matt Schaub. It was the difference in the game.
Houston came out for the first play of the game in an illegal formation for a 5-yard penalty.
No attention to detail. No precision. A minor league effort had been foreshadowed.
And it was delivered.
The game was absolutely over, with zero seconds run off the clock.
GAME BALL TO J.J. WATT
My game ball goes to J.J. Watt, who never once shut down the engine while the rest of his fraudulent Texans teammates balled up in the fetal position and quivered. Matt Schaub and Co. clearly weren’t ready for prime time.
This kid is the real deal. Put him anywhere, he makes plays. Run, pass, hustling, coverage, you name it.
I’m embarrassed for the Texans and their showing, but this was clearly a case of one team showing up as a true Super Bowl contender and the other pretending.
The way this Texans football team quit, I love the Patriots to take the No. 1 seed over.
Houston melted and now stares at a quick turnaround game with Indy, a home date with Adrian Peterson and the Vikings and the finale with the Colts.
I see another loss.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have the season in their hands Sunday night against the 49ers followed by cupcakes with the Jaguars and Dolphins.
WHY BELICHICK IS BETTER?
He’s not. By leaving Stevan Ridley in late, he cost me a fantasy win.
Seriously, every night this team faces a regular-season test, they are always better prepared. They had Matt Schaub so well scouted. He was panicking at times for no reason.
Look, this team has won 10 of 12 division titles and has won 10 games or more every season since 2003.
They infrequently, if ever, don’t show up for a game. You can count the blowout losses on one hand since ‘03.
They win the turnover battles. They win the penalty battles. That’s Belichick.
They get up for games and despite being a dynasty find the way to play the underdog role.
“We came into this game with a chip on our shoulders, everybody talking about the 11-1 Texans,” said Jerod Mayo. “It was a motivation factor for me at least, I’m sure the rest of the guys felt the same way.”
Gary Kubiak you tried, you failed miserably.
Hope to see you in January, because these Texans are made of paper.
WILFORK SIMPLY UNBELIEVABLE
The captain set the tone.
Vince Wilfork’s best football in ages came in his 3-solo tackle first quarter. He smothered Arian Foster twice. He pushed the pile into Matt Schaub for a sack. He dominated, as much as Tom Brady did on the other side of the football.
Yep, he gets a game ball, too.
FIVE THOUGHTS AS THE PATS PUSH FORWARD AT 10-3
1. Bring on the Niners and Randy Moss. This defense now believes in itself. Rankings or not, that’s all that really matters until a Manning or Aaron Rodgers is standing across the way.
2. Everything kept breaking right for New England this week. Imagine a playoff opener here vs. the Jets or Colts, then an AFC title dance with these Texans, again right here in Foxboro. It’s going to happen.
3. Is Pat Chung ever going to play on this defense, outside of garbage time? Remember when we thought he was the leader. Maybe, he was part of the problem, not the solution.
4. I am a little worried about Aqib Talib’s hip, injured in the second quarter last night. Imagined impact or not, his presence has sparked something in this defense.
5. I said it first six weeks ago, and I will repeat it now that everyone else has jumped on the wagon. Tom Brady is the NFL Most Valuable Player.
Quote of the night
“It was an ass-whoopin,” said Texans receiver Andre Johnson