Patriots 'D' makes a statement vs. Texans


Patriots 'D' makes a statement vs. Texans

FOXBORO -- The Texans came into Gillette Stadium as the NFL's second-best offense. They left embarrassed after running into the Patriots defense for four quarters.

With a chance to prove on national television that the strides it had made in recent weeks were not thanks to the unimpressive offenses it had faced of late, New England's 'D' stood firm and thoroughly dominated Houston in a 42-14 win on Monday night.

"I finally feel like we put together four quarters of football," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "Obviously, we came into this game with a chip on our shoulders, everyone talking about the Houston Texans. And I think our defensive line went out there and played well today Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, all those guys, Trevor Scott those guys played very well today and kept us going in the back end."

Mayo went out of his way to laud his defensive line after hearing listening to the deification of Houston defensive lineman JJ Watt for the better part of last week.

In particular, Vince Wilfork's play showed why he needs to be in the conversation when discussing the game's best at that position. He had three tackles, including one for a loss, a strip sack that pushed Houston back 20 yards in the first quarter, and a pass defensed -- one more than his counterpart, Watt, who in two years in the NFL has helped build his reputation on an ability to deflect throws.

"From the first quarter on, he was making plays," Mayo said of Wilfork. "Making tackles, batting balls. He had a little J.J. Watt swat there at one point in the game and it was good for us. He went out there and played from the first snap on and you cant ask for anything more."

Wilfork explained that he cared more about the win than proving to the world how he stacks up against Watt.

"Win," Wilfork said. "Win. That's what it's all about for me. I could care less about stats. The biggest stat to me is Ws. Plain and simple. There's nothing to it. You win, I'm happy. Lose, I'm not happy. I'm happy tonight."

A significant part of what made the Patriots defense so successful on the field Monday was their ability to get off of it. Before Texans backup quarterback TJ Yates took his team's snaps for its final two drives, the Patriots only allowed Houston to convert on a paltry two of 12 third down plays.

"We always talk about improving third down and getting off the field," Mayo said. "Any time we can get the ball in our offenses hands, we feel like theyll go out there and score 40 points like they did today. So it was a good third down conversion rate and something to build on."

The Texans pointed to their struggles on third down as one of the biggest reasons for their primetime letdown.

"They just out-played us," said Texans running back Arian Foster. "We didn't execute when we had chances to. We had a couple thid downs we could have done better executing on. That's part of the game. You want to make those plays and that is the type of plays you make if you want to be a championship team."

"We did not make any plays, and against a team like that you have to make plays on third down," said Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who last week called this the biggest game in Texans franchise history. "We did not make any plays on third down. They scored a lot of points and they converted on their third downs and kept our offense off the field."

The Texans got into New England territory three times in the second half but the Patriots still kept Houston scoreless for the better part of three quarters. On two of those drives, they stopped the Texans on fourth down.

On the third Texans drive into Patriots territory, Devin McCourty intercepted Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in New England's end zone in the first quarter. With the pick -- and without a turnover of their own -- the Patriots are now plus-25 in turnover differential, best in the league in that category.

"I think they're very opportunistic," said Texans coach Gary Kubiak. "I think they do a good job busting some protection schemes and they do a good job of getting their hands on the ball . . . McCourty's interception was a great example of the kinds of plays they make."

Gillette Stadium was a difficult place to play for the Texans on Monday. If the Patriots defense can continue to turn the ball over and have success stopping teams on third down, it won't get any easier for the 49ers, who come to town for a game this upcoming Sunday night.

"To be honest with you, we just take it one game at a time," Mayo said. "But when you go out there and perform the way you do, I think coming to Foxboro is going to be a tough place for any team to win."

Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots


Felger: Broncos’ Elway and Kubiak the only NFL braintrust close to the Patriots

Before I make the following point, I'd like to make one thing clear to my sensitive readers: I do not believe the Denver Broncos are better than Patriots. I do not believe they have “passed'' the Pats. Please, Patriots fans, when New England goes into Denver and wins on Dec. 18 and/or the Pats beat them again in the playoffs, save your emails and calls. Don't get your panties in a bunch. You're still the best.

However, as we assess the pathetic state of brainpower across the NFL, the Broncos are one of only a few teams that deserve mention alongside the Pats. Perhaps they're the only one.  As their recent handling of their quarterback situation shows, especially from a coaching standpoint, Gary Kubiak and John Elway have proven they know what they're doing -- and how many teams in the league can you say that about?

In Denver, Brock Osweiler actually looked like a quarterback with a future. In Houston, he barely looks like he belongs in the league. That's about coaching, scheme and culture. It seems that somewhere between the silly letterman jackets in Houston and his second crack in Denver, Kubiak got a clue. Last year, he managed Osweiler to a 5-2 record before sitting him and somehow winning a Super Bowl behind the noodle-armed Peyton Manning. This year, he has another marginal talent, Trevor Siemian, off to a 5-1 start in his first season under center.

There are many NFL coaches who didn't hit their stride until their second job, and you have to wonder if Kubiak falls in this camp. I actually saw him put down his playsheet with his offense on the field the other night and thought, maybe he's starting to get it. He looked more like a head coach and just a little less like an offensive coordinator. 

Either way, Kubiak has displayed an excellent touch with a string of mediocre quarterbacks. And from the original decision to shut down Manning, to the insertion of Osweiler, to the reinstatement of Manning, and then the ultimate handing of the job to Siemian, he and Elway have pushed all the right buttons. If Paxton Lynch turns into a player down the road, look out.

Of course, Kubiak hasn't had much to do with his defense, which has been the domain of Elway, the architect, and to a lesser extent, Wade Phillips, the coordinator. Elway remains one of the few executives to build a championship team largely through free agency, and some of his moves have been so cold-hearted, so debated at the time, that only Bill Belichick could relate.

Who else fires a coach who led you to four division titles and a Super Bowl berth (John Fox), and then follows that up with a title? Who else lets go of BOTH quarterbacks who led you to a title and follows that up with a division lead?

It's moves like those that led ESPN to display a stat montage late in the game on Monday depicting Elway as ``the Don.'' (Wonder where they got that idea from?). Think about it.  Who else in the league -- what coach, executive or owner -- gets that kind of ``mastermind'' treatment? I don't think anyone else deserves it other than Belichick and, in second place, Elway. Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore would be a distant third; or perhaps Pete Carroll and John Schneider in Seattle deserve mention.

Regardless, as the ESPN graphic showed, the Broncos' record since Elway took over in 2011 is now 63-24, second in the league over that time only to the Pats (67-20). Denver is also one of just four teams to make the playoffs every year during his tenure (the Packers, Pats and Bengals are the others). Like the Pats and Seahawks, he's been to two Super Bowls and won one. And like the Pats, he has won his division five straight years.  

Perhaps that all comes to an end this year, and it sure looks like Denver will be fighting an uphill battle when it comes to earning home field over the Pats come December. But for now, in a league where there are no equals to Belichick, it's almost refreshing (to me, anyway) to consider someone who at least belongs in the conversation. 

Email Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN New England.


Belichick: A lot of teams around the league are 'kind of reluctant to trade'


Belichick: A lot of teams around the league are 'kind of reluctant to trade'

FOXBORO -- It's not easy to pull off trades in the NFL around the deadline. Just look at how many are completed in the final days leading up to the deadline every year. Yet the Patriots have worked two already, and they have until Nov. 1 at 4 p.m. to execute another.

One of the trades they pushed through earlier this week saw them send a sixth-round pick to the Lions in exchange for a seventh-rounder and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. What helped that deal cross the finish line was the relationship between the front offices in Detroit and New England. 

Lions general manager Bob Quinn spent the majority of his professional career working for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, serving most recently as Belichick's director of pro scouting until being named to his current position in Detroit. 

Belichick acknowledged on Wednesday that there are times when having a long-standing relationship with someone can help a trade get done.

"I mean it could, yeah," Belichick said. "I mean, you know, there are a lot of teams that don’t . . . they seem kind of reluctant to trade -- this time of year, especially. But it’s one of those things that came up fairly quickly and just worked out. It wasn’t something we had talked about or anything like that previously. As I said, it kind of came up so we were able to work it out.

"Look, Bob's great to work with. But we made another trade with another team in our conference so if it’s there to be made, it’s there to be made. If it’s not, it’s not."

That other trade saw the Patriots send tight end AJ Derby to AFC rival Denver in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Belichick doesn't seem to care much about who he's trading with -- "We’re trying to make our team better," he said, "that’s what we’re trying to do" -- but because of the league's reluctance to deal, it seems that if the Patriots are looking for help at tight end, along their offensive line, or at pass-rusher, they may be more likely to find it by calling old friends in Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Houston or Atlanta, where former Belichick protegees are now employed.