Bill Belichick, short-handed Patriots punk Texans 27-0: 7 things to know
More proof that Belichick is the best football coach there is
We already knew this going into the game, but Bill Belichick proved it once again on Thursday night. The man in the hoodie is the best coach in professional football.
Playing on a short week and with a third-string, third-round rookie starting at quarterback, the Patriots beat up on the Houston Texans, 27-0, and it somehow wasn't even as close as that sounds. Belichick's Patriots are now 14-5 without Tom Brady since he became the starter, and Belichick's now won games with three different backups (Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, and now Jacoby Brissett) in their first career start during that time.
New England controlled the entire game on both sides of the ball Thursday evening, barely letting the Houston offense get untracked while emptying the entire playbook to matriculate the ball down the field offensively. The Texans did not run a single offensive play in Patriots territory until the 1:14 mark of the third quarter. Brock Osweiler was limited to 24 of 41 passing for 196 yards (4.8 per attempt). Lamar Miller, despite 22 carries, ran for only 84 yards. DeAndre Hopkins was barely a factor. Will Fuller was largely invisible. And Houston didn't score a point.
Rather than simplifying the playbook with a third-stringer under center, Belichick and Josh McDaniels pulled out all the stops. They used jet sweeps, speed keepers, quarterback traps, triple-options, and tight end-arounds. They took deep shots down the field on numerous third-and-short opportunities. They took advantage of Brissett's ability to stretch the field horizontally and amplified it by using their weapons in a variety of ways.
The Patriots even dominated on special teams, forcing two fumbles on kick returns and pinning the Texans between their own 10 and 15-yard line with four different punts, and two more inside the five.
This win was utterly dominant, and under the most extreme conditions the Belichick-era Patriots have likely ever faced. It's fitting that it was the 226th regular season victory of his career, moving him into a tie for fourth on the all-tine list with legendary Packers coach Curly Lambeau.
Things went so well, he even managed to crack a smile. I swear.
🚨🚨🚨 BELICHICK IN GAME SMILE 🚨🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/XIXx1eemau— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 23, 2016
Here are six more things to know about New England's blowout victory:
2. Jacoby Brissett has got some wheels
Brissett was quite a runner in college, and the Pats designed some plays over the last few days to let him use his legs against the Texans defense. In the first half, he made Whitney Mercilus look silly on an option, then shook free of Andre Hal down the field on a 27-yard touchdown run.
That touchdown was the longest run by a New England quarterback since Steve Grogan in 1976. And what did Brissett do after he scored? He gave the ball to Belichick. What a guy.
By the way:
Jacoby Brissett has 40 rush yds in his first qtr as a starter. In 225 career gms, Tom Brady has never rushed for more than 31 yds in a GAME.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) September 23, 2016
3. J.J. Watt doesn't look like J.J. Watt yet
The best defensive player in football is very clearly still working his way back into playing shape after offseason surgery. Through three games, Watt has not exactly looked like himself.
It's tough to make plays when you're legitimately triple-teamed:
Jadeveon Clowney triple teamed. J.J. Watt double teamed. pic.twitter.com/XfJtjMribW— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 23, 2016
But Watt hasn't exactly been constrained by the kind of things that constrain normal humans before. He finished this game with two tackles, no sacks, and barely affected Brissett's ability to throw the ball.
And then there's this:
JJ Watt vs. all other teams: 76 sacks in 79 games.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 23, 2016
JJ Watt vs. the Patriots: 0 sacks in 4 games.
Again, that Belichick guy might know what he's doing.
4. Let's talk about the Color Rush jerseys
As numerous people on Twitter observed, the Patriots were basically just wearing normal Texans jerseys:
The Texans ... also wore pretty much normal Texans jerseys, but with white pants instead of the usual blue.
5. DeAndre Hopkins has insane body control
Hopkins may not have made much of an impact on the game (four catches, 56 yards), but the catches he did make were fairly ridiculous:
This type of thing is why, despite not having elite size or speed, Hopkins is still an elite receiver. He might have the largest catch radius in the NFL. Just put it anywhere near him and chances are he's coming down with the football.
6. Gronk back (but not really)
Ron Gronkowski was activated for the first time this season, but it almost seemed like the Patriots put him on the active roster just to give the Texans something else to think about. He was uninvolved in the game plan and played only 14 snaps. He was the intended target on just one pass and actually was brought in to block on 12 of those 14 snaps; he only ran two routes.
7. Jamie Collins was the best player on the field
And it wasn't particularly close.
Collins was absolutely everywhere all night. He finished the evening with 13 tackles (seven solo) and an interception, and those numbers drastically underestimate the impact he had on the game.
He wasn't the only guy on the New England defense that did good work -- Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown, Chris Long, Trey Flowers, and others flashed very well -- but it was clear that he was right in the middle of everything. Just a marvelous game.
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