Patriots Report Card Vs. Texans

If the team wins, that means a good report card, right? Well, not neccessarily, as the Patriots performance against the Texans was definately a mixed bag. As the team prepares for another dome game against the Colts, TheInsiders analyze the team's performance on offense, defense, and special teams.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- This is a tough area to grade after this game. The Patriots won it throwing the ball, but almost lost it trying to. Quarterback Tom Brady completed 29-of-47 passes for 368 yards and engineered a dramatic final-minute 80-yard touchdown drive that he completed with a fourth down touchdown pass to Daniel Graham with 40 seconds left in regulation. Along the way, he dodged a heavy rush, bought time shuffling in the pocket and hit Graham for 33 yards on a third-and-10 play to keep the drive alive. He threw to nine different receivers including newcomers J.J. Stokes and Dedric Ward. Yet he also tossed a pair of interceptions, one that was returned to the 11-yard line, and he fumbled trying to make an ill-advised pass and that fumble was returned 33 yards to the Patriots 31. Those two turnovers led to 14 of the Texans 20 points. Graham dropped two passes, Deion Branch dropped a fourth down throw and rookie Bethel Johnson also had one slip out of his hands. But yet all of those receivers also made clutch plays to help win the game. Johnson, seeing his most significant action of the season, had a career best five receptions for 65 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown grab. Branch added five catches for 53 yards while Graham made four for 52 including the two biggest receptions of the game on the final drive in regulation. But Kevin Faulk led the way with eight receptions for 108 of his 188 total yards on the day.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- This was average at best. Facing a defense that allowed a 100-yard rusher in the first half of its last three games, the Patriots never really controlled the game on the ground, instead needing to throw to move the ball with any consistency. They did run it 41 times, but for only 128 yards, a 3.1 yards per carry average. Faulk led the way with 23 attempts for 80 yards. They did make some yards after contact and ran well in short yardage, but didn't produce well enough in the red zone and didn't dominate against a weak, injury-depleted front seven.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Houston mounted only one legitimate scoring drive all day, that a 79-yard march that consumed a Texans record 8:41 and included a pair of third down conversions. It's other scoring drives were 11 yards, 31 yards and 8 yards, all the result of Patriots mistakes. But Houston did convert two of those short drives into touchdowns. The first came when rookie Andre Johnson got behind Tyrone Poole for a 10-yard score and the second came when Rodney Harrison fell down in coverage and allowed tight end Billy Miller to run wide open to the end zone where quarterback Tony Banks hit him for a 16-yard score. Those were the two highlights Banks had on the day. He finished 10-for-25 for 93 yards with those two scores and an interception while being sacked three times. The Patriots got their hands on 12 of his passes, not including Mike Vrabel's overtime interception.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- The Patriots front seven dominated the line of scrimmage. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour was disruptive and Willie McGinest also had a big day. This group won the game in overtime when the Texans took over on the Patriots 35 and ran twice for minus-5 yards before throwing incomplete and punting to set up New England's game-winning drive. Houston rookie sensation Domanick Davis ran 24 times for only 69 yards as he was often bottled up at the line of scrimmage and averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. Houston had a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line early in the game and stuffed Davis for no gain twice with Ted Washington clogging the middle. After an incompletion, the Texans settled for a field goal to open the scoring, and the Patriots had seized momentum.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Adam Vinatieri missed his first ever indoor kick snapping a 30-for-30 streak when he hit the right upright from 38 yards. In overtime he had a 37-yarder blocked. Punter Ken Walter seemed to be hitting the ball better when he boomed his first punt 51 yards with no return and his second 43 with no return. But then he had a punt blocked and in overtime, hit a weak 31-yarder from his own end zone when his team needed a big kick. With Patrick Pass returning kicks in place of Bethel Johnson, the Patriots lack big-play ability. The coverage teams were fine as usual, but the two blocks in one game along with another Vinatieri miss sink this grade below sea level.

COACHING: B -- The offensive staff acclimated two new wideouts into the system the week of the game and did an admirable job working them in. Charlie Weis deserves credit as well for sticking to his guns with the game on the line even if the play call seemed risky. During the week, the Patriots lead play near the goal line was a quarterback rollout pass to the tight end. Facing a fourth-and-one play from the Texans 4-yard line with 40 seconds to go, Weis changed his mind from a running play to that play, citing the week's worth of planning as the reason. It didn't work as it was drawn up, and he likely would have taken heat for the call if it failed, but it didn't and kept all the Monday Morning Quarterbacks at bay. In a game where it seemed the Patriots would be able to come in and establish a dominant ground attack, that never happened despite 41 rushing attempts through five quarters. The defensive game plan was solid again and the Patriots managed the clock well. The coaches need to figure out a way to cut down on the offensive mistakes before they cost the team a game, which they haven't done in the last seven weeks but certainly could as the games grow in importance.

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