(Photo by Greg M. Cooper-USA Today Sports)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Deshaun Watson and D’Onta Foreman eras almost began with a bang rather than a whimper after Sunday’s 36-33 finish at Gillette Stadium.
“We have to run the ball better but Deshaun’s run the offense well,” Houston Head Coach Bill O’Brien said during an interview about a near last-minute touchdown drive before halftime.
It may have been a fourth Brady-engineered touchdown drive with less than a minute in the second quarter, if not for a late defensive stand.
“That was a big stop at the half,” O’Brien continued. “I just didn’t want to give Brady the ball back with too much time.”
Manipulating time, however, was exactly how Brady stole a momentum-building win from Houston.
The Texans, despite Jadaveon Clowney’s 22-yard fumble return and three field goals from Ka’imi Fairbairn, couldn’t trump a nearly peerless performance from Tom Brady, who led the Patriots on a 75-yard drive capped by a 4th-and-1 touchdown with 2:24 left in the game.
Though Foreman and starting running back Lamar Miller’s legs came into play during the matchup, it was Watson’s savvy, ability to escape perilous situations, and calm under pressure that nearly forged a career-defining moment.
Watson looked like the franchise quarterback the Texans envisioned when they selected him No. 12 in the 2017 NFL Draft. He almost outdueled his future Hall of Fame predecessor with 22 of 33 passing for 301 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Brady completed 25 of his 35 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns.
Foreman, a former Texas City High School running back, fell 10 shy of eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, combining for 90 total yards (65 rec, 25 rush).
It was almost enough to hand New England its second loss of the season. Almost, however, was the operative word.
On the Patriots final possession, Brady went over 300 yards passing for the 78th time in his career — the third highest total in NFL history. It was also the 17-year veteran’s 52nd career game-winning drive to either rally to a victory after a fourth-quarter deficit or force a tie and overtime.
While the overarching narrative will be Brady’s late-game magic, the underlying lesson for Houston was its inability to gain a single yard on separate two third-and-1 situations that would have seeped time from Brady and the Patriots or sealed the upset victory.
Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of Texas HS Football. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.