Patriots: Are they back?

As the New England Patriots entered their last home regular season game, many fans were contemplating whether they were as good as their 9-4 record showed. With the last three weeks looking sub par at best (even though they recorded a 2-1 record) filled with turnovers and lack of takeaways, the New England Patriots made a statement today. They knocked off the Texans 40-7.

Now of course most would say it was against the Houston Texans who have doubled their win production of a year ago to bring their total this year to four but, as we can all remember, it was just 2 weeks ago this team played the lowly Detroit Lions and squeaked out a victory by the skin of their teeth, winning on a last quarter drive.

How many of you came into this week thinking that this team needed to 'right their ship'? How many of you listened to the national media outlets saying that this team was weak or too injured to do anything? Well, I think you might have been in the majority among Patriots fans.

This team needed a statement game. They needed something they could sink their teeth into and use as a momentum builder for the playoff run. They needed to regain that swagger that they once had just a few short years ago.

With today's contest, they got that statement game.

As with every other game that they have played in victory or defeat, the defense came to play today. Despite the middle of the defensive line missing with Vince Wilfork out due to injury, they still were able to stop the run and cause havoc. With the innate ability to tip balls and pick balls off when needed, the defense looked stellar in all facets of the game intercepting David Carr 4 times and sacking the young quarterback 4 times.

A well deserved 'bravo' goes out to Asante Samuel also for his eighth interception this season, which gives him the most since 1998, when Ty Law had nine. This also moves him into a four-way tie with Ronnie Lippett, Mike Haynes and Bob Suci for third in club history. Samuel now only sits three behind only Ron Hall, who had 11 picks in 1964.

The offense, while at times looked effective, was still lacking that 'killer instinct' that we have all come to know of here in New England. The screen passes were running a little late and the passing game was non existent relying on pass interference calls and short 5 yard tosses. Even having the ball first and goal early in the fourth quarter to only end up with a field goal. The running game is missing that 'one-two punch' with Maroney on the shelf still but Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk did what needed to be done.

One very noteworthy fact about today's game offensively is that they had 0 turnovers. This has been a problem that has plagued them this season. No fumbles or interceptions given up.

The score might not have shown it but the offensive unit even looked a little flat … again. To show you this just look at the fact that 4 times today they had to settle for field goals when they drove it deep in their opponent's territory. The 'killer instinct' I spoke of would have been able to put those drives into the end zone. The score should have been a much wider difference than it was.

With Brady throwing for just over 100 yards, they were looking for a breakout performance from the receiving corps today but never got it. They at times looked as if they couldn't get open against this often porous defense of Houston. But as many would say in Brady's defense, he did enough to win the game.

This is the only part of the game today that had a negative feel to it.

The special teams units were looking sharp on the defensive side and on the return side of the coin. Ken Walter actually averaged 40 yards per punt and of course Stephen Gostkowski is slowly coming into his own kicking 4 field goals right between the uprights. Hats off also goes out to Ellis Hobbs returning a kickoff for 93 yards right after Houston had an impressive drive to open the third quarter.

The team looked hungrier than they have been and it showed in most aspects of the game except the passing game. It basically shows that the leading receiver for the Patriots today was running back Kevin Faulk with a stellar 46 yards. This may be the one point that is going to hurt them come playoff time.

The past few weeks we could attest a majority of the lack of passing to the protection of Tom Brady but today, he was only sacked one time for four yards and had a fairly large amount of time to throw the ball. But as the most obvious of all experts might say, if they aren't open then you can't throw to them.

The result was the offense not really needing a whole lot of yards in order to score points. The offense had 230 yards of total offense with Corey Dillon carrying 20 times for 61 yards and Kevin Faulk with 8 rushes for 24 yards and a touchdown along with 2 catches for 24 yards and a score. They did enough to win the game.

The key in the National Football League is to win games. A win is a win. If one area is lacking then teams need to pick them up with another area to have a final score of victory for their team.

Overall this game was a well played game and had mostly positive things being said for a team with injuries all around. Losing key players in key positions and still being able to win games that you are supposed to win is the sign that the team is moving in the right direction.

But also remember this was Houston as spoken so eloquently by coach Belichick, "It was a good solid effort [for us], we had some turnovers, we were able to capitalize and make a couple plays offensively, and special teams, I thought they had a real good day. They covered well, returned well, and got us scoring opportunities, and we converted those. That was an important part of the game and Houston is very good on special teams. So it was a big challenge for our guys today and they really responded to it. It was good to win. We need to have a short memory on this one and move on to Jacksonville."

Next week is a crucial game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars who are looking to rebound from a loss to the Tennessee Titans. If the Patriots can win then they can clinch the AFC East, so it is of utmost importance for them to bring their best to sunny northern Florida.


Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.

Patriots Insider Top Stories