By Kennedy Ross
Cold, Hard Football Facts AFC East Overlord (@FNscribeNY)
The New England Patriots left no doubt as to their intentions rolling towards the playoffs. They lit up the Houston Texans on offense and then bottled them up on defense. Total domination across the board.
Here are five things we learned on this lopsided night:
1. Best QB on the field, Tom Brady (Patriots 42 - Texans 14)
Tom Brady burst out of the gate with the rest of the Patriot offense for three straight touchdown drives. In machine like fashion the Patriots threw and ran all over the vaunted Houston defense.
Aside from a few over thrown balls, Brady surgically picked the bones of the defense clean. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 and four touchdowns. Three of them came in the first 20 minutes of the game.
On the other hand, Houston quarterback Matt Schabb looked helpless. His passes were off target. When he was on target he was completing passes that were several yards short of the first down marker.
None of the play makers for Houston actually looked like play makers. Andre Johnson got no separation from his defender and Arian Foster didn't look explosive or elusive. A good bit of credit goes to the much improved Patriot defense, but not all of it.
2. Running game balances the attack.
Several of Brady's big plays down field came off of play action passes. The Patriots running game was effective if not dominant. It was enough to keep the Texans jumpy whenever a hand off appeared to be transpiring.
When they bit, someone (usually tight end Aaron Hernandez or wide receiver Wes Welker) was wide open for a big play.
The Patriots ran for 130 yards led by Stevan Ridley who racked up 72 yards and one rushing touchdown. Even Brady ran for an emphatic six yard gain. And you know he barely moves faster than cancer.
3. Debilitating passing game.
Premier pass swatter defensive end J.J. Watt was only swatting the flies that were attempting to enter his gaping mouth as he sucked all the air he could get on the sideline. Watt and the rest of the Texans defensive line was on the field for what seemed like forever.
Watt not only did not touch any of Brady's passes, but he and the defensive line were being dominated for most of the game. They managed to knock Brady down a handful of times, but nothing to knock him off of his game.
Conversely, the Patriots defensive line led by defensive tackle huge-ass Vince Wilfork had their way with the Texans offense. Arian Foster barely mustered 46 yards rushing. He was being hemmed up near the line of scrimmage all night as evidenced by his 3.1 YPA average.
4. Holy crap, the Patriots have a defense.
As mentioned before, the Patriots defense was all over all of the star-skill players for the Texans.
Foster was shut down. Andre Johnson came away with 95 yards, but they were meaningless. Most of his catches never moved the chains we they needed to. That is clear from the Texans 4-14 third down conversion rate.
The Patriots were in Johnson's hip pocket all night. As for Schaub, he was being harassed and forced into bad throws. The Texans starting offense was held to seven points. The last touchdown by T.J. Yates took place in garbage time.
The level of balance on both sides of the ball displayed by the Patriots has set the rest of the AFC to DEFCON4, Orange Alert, and everything else that will get a playoff contenders attention.
It looks like the rest of the league may have to dust off the spotlight and send up the "Giants Signal" once again.
5. Now that the dust has cleared . . .
. . . Arian Fosters' YPA average has dropped this season. Vegans are known for busting through grape leaves, not defensive lines. He may need to add a couple more pieces of chicken to that diet.
. . . Is Rob Gronkowski paying attention to what Aaron Hernandez is doing?
. . . Bill Belichick wasn't in has normal cut-off sweatshirt hoodie. It's good to know that Sith's aren't superstitious.