HOUSTON -- We'll have plenty of analysis and reporting from the Patriots and Texans locker rooms later, but here are five quick-hit takeaways from Saturday's preseason matchup at NRG Stadium . . .
1. ALL-PURPOSE BACKS COULD BE HEADACHES FOR OPPOSING DEFENSES
Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis both looked quick on their feet and showed off their well-rounded games against Houston's defense. Burkhead finished with seven carries for 20 yards and caught three passes for 50 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown where he freed himself from linebacker Zach Cunningham with a nifty move over the middle of the field. Burkhead also showed up in pass protection. Lewis, meanwhile, had seven carries for 34 yards and caught one pass for nine yards. He also returned a kick for 29 yards, flashing his impressive burst and vision. Both players have value as between-the-tackle runners and receivers and seem to be ideal fits for the Patriots offense when they run their hurry-up. Should Josh McDaniels break out his "pony" formation, using both players in the backfield, it could be a nightmare for opposing defenses this year. Keep them in the backfield? Flex them out wide and hope to get linebackers on them in coverage? Their versatility gives the Patriots all kinds of options, and with Mike Gillislee still out injured, both had plenty of opportunities to play on Saturday.
2. GOSTKOWSKI ON THE MARK
Stephen Gostkowski hit all three field goals he attempted as well as all three of his extra-point attempts. He shanked a 56-yarder last week against the Jaguars, but he was on point against the Texans, making kicks of 51, 42 and 38 yards.
3. ROBERTS CARTED OFF, FURTHER THINNING FRONT-SEVEN
The Patriots are already dealing with a number of injuries to their front-seven and they suffered another on Saturday. While in coverage of running back D'Onta Foreman on a slant, Elandon Roberts collided with teammate Jonathan Freeny and stayed down. He was eventually carted from the sideline area with what the team announced as a rib injury. Should Roberts miss significant time, the Patriots would be left with David Harris, Kyle Van Noy and Freeny as their primary off-the-ball 'backers. Shea McClellin and Dont'a Hightower (PUP) figure to play big roles when healthy, but they have not been available for some time. Second-year player out of Maine Trevor Bates and undrafted rookie out of BYU Harvey Langi have both been utilized as linebackers of late.
4. GAROPPOLO TURNS IT OVER TWICE UNDER PRESSURE
Jimmy Garoppolo got plenty of work in preseason game No. 2, subbing in for Tom Brady after Brady saw 17 snaps. It was not the clean-and-tidy performance he put together against the Jags last week. He missed two throws on his first two drives, he was the victim of a strip-sack when Tony Washington charged completely unblocked into the Patriots backfield, and he was picked by Denzel Rice when he rolled out to his right and threw high on the run to Jacob Hollister. That play looked like the type of throw Garoppolo made more regularly in training camp earlier this summer when interceptions in practice were an issue.
5. NO SIGN OF FLOWERS
It's worth keeping an eye on Trey Flowers' availability moving forward. He did not see any playing time on Saturday despite being the team's top defensive end. Perhaps it was simply a way for Bill Belichick and his staff to ensure they didn't lose another defensive end to injury. They're hurting at that spot with rookies Derek Rivers (knee) and Deatrich Wise (head) dealing with injuries.