Kubiak conscious of Patriots' stout run defense

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Kubiak conscious of Patriots' stout run defense

J.J. Watt will inevitably be the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year when the votes are counted. But the Texans defensive lineman won't necessarily be the most impactful defensive lineman on the field Sunday when the Patriots and Texans get together again.

We pointed out Monday the importance of Vince Wilfork in stopping the Texans' running game.

Down in Houston, Texans coach Gary Kubiak was answering similar questions, including ones about whether the Texans are better off having seen Wilfork once.

He's going to look the same," said Kubiak. "Hes the same player. Hes one heck of a player and hes a load to handle. The thing about him is hes so athletic. We like to cut (block, where an offensive lineman fires out at a defensive lineman's lower body), we like to do those things up front offensively. And he jumped over us a couple of times.

"Theyre built right down the middle with the young linebacker and Wilfork," Kubiak added (one presumes the "young linebacker" is Jerod Mayo but it may be Brandon Spikes). "Theyre built very well right there. Against us they squeeze the ball really good off the edges with their outside players and let him do his work. Us containing him, for a player that plays inside, as many big plays as he makes, causing fumbles, those types of things, Thats the thing that concerns you the most. We cant let him do that.

The Patriots run defense in general has been very good, though statistically aided by the season opener against Tennessee when the Titans ran for just 20 yards. The 49ers ran all over New England for 180 yards but no other team got more than 120 over the final seven games.

Wilfork, says Kubiak, is the key.

"If you sit there and think youre going to run it at him consistently, its very difficult," he acknowledged. "Hes been one of the best players in the league, most dominant players in the league. Theyre very good against the run. I think theyre ranked like sixth or seventh. They have been all year long. The thing that is so difficult, is he plays everywhere. So he doesnt just play one spot. Its not like you go the other way with the ball or try to avoid something. Youre going to have to deal with him all day long. We know the importance of us playing well on the line of scrimmage. It was a key to what we did last week and Im sure it wont be any different this week."

The Texans played a very good front on Saturday when they took on the Bengals and lead back Arian Foster had 140 yards on 32 carries. The Texans defense played a big role in allowing Houston to use Foster so much. It was so stingy against Cincy's offense, the Texans never needed to get away from the running game and play catch-up. That's a dynamic that could change against New England.

And Kubiak acknowledged that as well.

"Missed opportunities they hurt all the time," said Kubiak. "But against these guys theyre a lot worse because of what they do offensively and how good they are. When you get opportunities to go down there and score some points, you better. You better not hurt yourself. Weve got to find ways to do that. Theyre going to make plays and we understand that, but we got to find a way to make quite a few ourselves."

Brady comes off the bench to throw TD in his preseason debut

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Brady comes off the bench to throw TD in his preseason debut

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There will be a moment in the days between September 3 and October 3 when Tom Brady stops what he’s doing, sets his jaw and mutters, “*$%^## Derby…”

During his first – and perhaps only action of the 2016 preseason – Brady had some very good plays, was let down by a few drops (like Derby’s on a third-down toss) and had a near pick on a downfield throw to Martellus Bennett.

Brady was in for four possessions, entering the game after Jimmy Garoppolo ran the team on the Patriots first three series.

Brady missed the first preseason game then plunged trainer’s scissors into his thumb just prior to the second preseason game and missed that one as well.

With a fair amount of buildup to this game, Brady’s first pass was a deep in-cut to Aaron Dobson that went for 37 yards after Dobson stepped out of a tackle.

That was followed by a crossing pattern drop by Julian Edelman and a high throw to the end zone on third-and-5 that doinked off the left hand of tight end Bennett under the goalpost. Seemed like a mistimed jump on the high throw over the hands of a couple defenders.

On Brady’s next series, a pair of Tyler Gaffney runs gained 20 before Brady dropped a fade in to the hands of Chris Hogan for a 32-yard touchdown. It couldn’t have been placed any better if Brady had been allowed to walk to Hogan and hand it to him.

Brady’s conversion pass to Dobson was incomplete.

The Patriots got another chunk play from LeGarrette Blount to start their next drive and Brady then hit Edelman for 6. But his throw to the left sideline on third-and-4 was bungled by Derby, ending the drive.

Brady’s final series was bleak. His first throw was batted down by Kawann Short. His second one, a deep throw across the field to Bennett after Brady stepped up in the pocket, should have been picked by Kurt Coleman. Brady was sacked on third down.

Garoppolo came in for the final two series of the first half and started the third quarter.

Brady spent much of the first quarter apart from the offense when it was on the sidelines, standing with arms folded. When the offense was on the field, Brady mostly sat by himself on the bench. There wasn’t any significant interaction between he and Garoppolo, who huddled with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after his series’ ended. Brady did the same after he came off the field with Garoppolo hovering nearby.

Brady finished 3-for-9 for 76 yards and a touchdown. As a team, the Patriots were 0-for-7 on third down in the first half. 

First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

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First half Patriots observations: Brady and Long up, Garoppolo and Solder down

The Patriots had their share of good and bad in the first half of their preseason game with the Panthers on Friday. Here's who we saw as some of the team's top performers, as well as some of the players who may have to make some corrections in the second half. 

* Tom Brady was only 3-for-9 in his four series, but he completed his passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown pass to Chris Hogan might have been the best throw of the preseason for any Patriots quarterback as he hit Hogan in stride, over the shoulder, for a 33-yard gain. Brady was close to having a second touchdown pass, but it glanced off the out-stretched hands tight end Martellus Bennett in the back of the end zone. Brady was nearly picked on his final drive, again trying to hit Bennett. He was sacked on his final play of the half.

* Jimmy Garoppolo had a difficult time early in this one. He was 5-for-9 for 37 yards, and he picked up an intentional grounding penalty. Garoppolo also was strip-sacked by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, but James White recovered. Garoppolo was nearly picked by Luke Kuechly early in the first quarter when there was an apparent miscommunication between Garoppolo and Julian Edelman. 

* Chris Long had a standout half with two pressures, a pass-breakup that led to a Devin McCourty pick, and he drew a hold. The veteran defensive end has shown a good motor and a knack for getting to the quarterback in each of New England's first three preseason games. 

* Logan Ryan also had a strong first half in his preseason debut. His first five targets in coverage resulted in no completions, an offensive pass interference penalty and an interception. His former college teammate Duron Harmon also had a pick of Panthers backup Derek Anderson.

* Nate Solder allowed the pressure that eventually led to the sack of Brady by Kony Ealy. He also was flagged for a false start. Being that it's the third preseason game -- when starters typically go deep into the game -- he'll likely have a chance to redeem himself in the second half.