FOXBORO There was a full quarter remaining Monday night when the Texans said, Let us up, weve had enough.
Getting the ball back with 14:15 left in the game after the Patriots scored to make it 35-7, Houston ran the ball four times and punted.
The white flag was up. The Texans tapped out of what theyd called the biggest game in team history.
Are they really paper tigers or was this just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad night under the bright lights in Foxboro? Well find out over the next month or so.
But there is nothing ambiguous about what the Patriots set out to do Monday night and then accomplished. This was one of those games they were itching to play because so much of the advance talk centered around what a daunting team the Texans were and how hard theyd be to deal with.
Obviously, we always talk about ignoring the noise, but you hear it, admitted linebacker Jerod Mayo. You hear it walking down the street. It was a little bit of a motivational factor for me, at least. Im sure the rest of the guys felt the same way.
The rest of the guys were gentle to the dispatched Texans. There was no grave-dancing done.
Logan Mankins, who can often be counted on for some straight-shooting and a subtle jab was taciturn.
We have our hands full every week, he said. We have a chip every week. We go out there and try to do our best and win the game every week. It doesnt matter the other teams record.
Pressed a little, Mankins did add that, Of course its rewarding to beat a team thats getting a lot of pregame buildup.
Anytime you play someone where its said, Youre gonna have trouble with this team all night and then to win the way we did tonight its always good feeling. We didnt want it to come down to a kick.
It didnt. The only kicking was administered to the Texans hindquarters, a point they were more than willing to concede.
We got our tails kicked, said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.
"They just gave gave us a good ass-whooping, said wide receiver Andre Johnson.
"I think we put too much focus on this game as just a huge game, and not doing our approach as far as just going 1-0, explained Texans linebacker Bradie James. Sometimes guys get a little tight, things get a little out of hand. But the Patriots played lights out in the first half. That's what it takes. I think they showed us what it takes to be a champion.
Which is part of the process. The Texans are a good team this year. They were last year as well. The Patriots have been a great team for more than a decade. This game that Andre Johnson called the biggest in franchise history? The Patriots play in games of this magnitude several times a season.
Give credit to the Texans, theyre not going anywhere, said Patriots wide receiver Donte' Stallworth. Theyre gonna be around.
What the Patriots are doing this year is what they did last year. They are building to a crescendo. They seem to spend the first five or six weeks of the season tinkering in the lab on both sides of the ball. The stuff that works, they keep. The stuff that doesnt they throw out.
If they need something they dont have like a solid cover corner they go out and try to get one, which they did this year with Aqib Talib. If they need to move a guy like Devin McCourty to make everyone else better, they do it. If they need to de-emphasize a players role as they did with Brandon Lloyd they do that as well.
They put players in positions to succeed and, generally, dont try to force square pegs into round holes.
The ignore the noise mantra to which they subscribe doesnt just apply to not hearing the praise, but also shutting out the criticism. And there was a lot of it early this year, much of it deserved, some of it the aimless braying of donkeys with either four hours or column inches to fill.
Inevitably, as the season moves along, the Patriots fix whats broken or succeed in covering it up. At least well enough to emerge as one of the best teams in a 32-team league by the time the Christmas lights go up.
And the braying wanes until the laments are reduced to worrying about which starters are playing too long when the games are already decided.
This morning, the Patriots wake up and find themselves anointed as the favorites to go to New Orleans for their sixth Super Bowl appearance in 12 seasons.
Less than two months ago, the Patriots were 3-3 after a loss to Seattle. Misery. After an overtime win over the Jets the following week, panic and disgust over how flawed the Patriots were hit its annual high-water mark.
Six wins later, there is no team in the NFL playing better. The December coronation is coming. The Patriots are used to this.
One of the big things that Bill has always preached for years, even before I was here in 07 is, Dont buy into the hype and ignore the outside noise. Come in and prepare and dont worry about what the media is saying about the game . . . thats one of the things that has driven this organization to be so successful over the past however many years its been.
There is a methodical method to the madness of Bill Belichick. Plod, plod, plod to excellence every year. Let the other teams win the offseason, September and October. November and December belong to New England. And, quite often, January and February do too.
It takes a while to develop that patience. They dont hand out the lettermans jackets until after the season.