FOXBORO -- The Patriots shut out the Texans in their Week 3 matchup earlier this season, 27-0, and unfortunately for Houston it seems as though Bill Belichick's defense has improved since then.
Roles have been solidified. Communication has improved. The coaching staff has become more comfortable with the capabilities its personnel.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien knows he will have his work cut out for him, though he admitted on a conference call that because the Patriots were so good the first time around it would be hard to say just how exactly they've gotten better.
"I mean, obviously, they shut us out back then," he said. "I don't know how much better they can get than that against us. I mean, they shut us out."
On Saturday, O'Brien won't have to worry about Jamie Collins -- who led the Patriots in tackles in Week 3 and intercepted a pass -- but he will be forced to deal with Dont'a Hightower, who was out with a knee injury for the first meeting between the two teams.
"I would say that the difference is, I don't think Hightower played against us the first game, and obviously Jaime Collins was in there," O'Brien said. "Now you've got [Elandon] Roberts in there. You've got Hightower [who's] going to be in there.
"I think that there are a lot of very good players on their defense. They're very well coached, they're physical. They're good tacklers. They change from week to week, they give you a lot of different things to think about. What we see on paper right now may not be what we see on Saturday night. We've gotta understand that and our ability to follow our own rules, follow the rules of our offense."
The Patriots have been busy this week calling the Texans the No. 1 defense in the league -- and they are based on yards allowed -- but the Patriots defense has a claim on that title as well since no one in the NFL has allowed fewer points.
"Matt [Patricia] and Bill those guys do a great job," O'Brien said. "They have a lot of good players."
And they might be even better than the group that embarrassed the Texans back in September.