A last-ditch comeback in the final 60seconds of the game is vintage Tom Brady. A man who, at 40 years old, is still showing no signs of becoming vintage himself.
For most of the game Houston QB DeShaun Watson showed every sign of doing the impossible, coming into Gillette Stadium as a rookie QB and coming away with the win. In the Belichick era rookie signal callers are 0-8 when playing in Foxboro (0-9 after Sundays game). Yet, late in the 4th quarter the Texans were to find themselves in the lead at 33-28, the score line testament to a powerful defensive front and a quarterback who has injected life into a previously dormant offense.
Brady drew first blood. He threw 44yd bomb to Brandin “the Archer” Cooks while being flattened by Mercilus, which set up a 5yd strike to Rob Gronkowski. (As a result Gronk now owns the title of “fastest TE to 70TDs”). Watson responded by marching his team down the field, setting up a 39yd field goal. The Patriots failed to respond so Watson lead the way with a 29yd pass to Bruce Ellington to take the lead 10-7. Another drive from the home side resulted in a punt they needed a swing in momentum, which the defense were more than happy to provide.
A Watson pass intended for Hopkins was picked off by new No1 CB Stephon Gillmore and returned 39yds, setting up a TD pass to a wide open Chris Hogan.
Houston added another field goal on a drive which could have easily resulted in a punt, had it not been for the ability of Watson to scramble and keep drives alive. The consistent pressure from the Texans defensive front finally paid dividends on the next drive. A sack by Whitney Mercilus forced Brady to fumble, the ball was recovered by Jadeveon Clowney for a defensive TD, taking the score to 20-14 in favour of Houston. The half would end with the score almost level, the Patriots barely in front after a second Hogan TD reception.
Both teams started the second half with strong drives ending in TDs. (Brady to Cooks for a 49yarder, Watson to TE Griffin for 12yds). After a strong start both sides fizzled out, the next 6 drives resulted in 4 punts and 2 Houston FGs to give them a 33-28 lead.
With 2:24 to play in the 4th, the ball was back in the hands of Brady as he tried to lead his team to a home win. It was a task that was nearly derailed on several occasions. Another deep pass to Cooks was negated by an offensive holding call, Brady had his second strip-sack of the game, (this time the ball was recovered by NE), a 2nd and 18 pass to Cooks was almost intercepted by Texans safety Corey Moore, but he couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Brady ended the drive with a needle-thread pass to Cooks, who performed a Julio-esque toe tap to give his team the lead.
With 23seconds left to play Watson would get 2 final plays to try and leave Gillette with the win, but a last second hail mary attempt was picked off by Patriots safety Duron Harmon who, thankfully, kept hold of the ball to secure his team the win.
While Brady continues to defy father time, the defense struggled to contain the edge against a QB prone to escaping, not reassuring when the Patriots week 4 matchup is against an offense lead by the elusive Cam Newton. The play of the secondary has been excellent as expected, but the loss of Hightower in game 1 has definitely been felt. Overall, the offense is, as ever, New England’s strong point, with a healthy Gronkowski reeling in 16rec for 238yds and 2TDs and Brandin Cooks certainly seeming to be in sync with Brady, leading to Brady attempting more deep passes than ever before over the first 3 games. Clearly no-one told TB12 40 is “over the hill”!