FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Late Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips once said, “He can take his’n and beat your’n. Or he can take your’n and beat his’n,” about the coaching prowess of Bear Bryant and/or Don Shula, depending on the version of the story.
Wonder what old Bum would say about Bill Belichick?
Despite being down to his third-string quarterback, rookie third-round pick Jacoby Brissett, Bill Belichick’s Patriots completely dominated the Houston Texans in all three phases 27–0 on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. Belichick earned his 226th regular-season win, which ties him with Curly Lambeau for fourth on the all-time list behind Don Shula (328), George Halas (318) and Tom Landry (250).
The Patriots are now 3–0 without suspended quarterback Tom Brady, and have nine days to prepare for a home matchup with the winless Bills. The Patriots have also been without tight end Rob Gronkowski (he returned from a hamstring injury but ran one pass route) and defensive end Rob Ninkovich (suspension), yet the Patriots just keep chugging along winning games.
If you’re a contender in the AFC, which the Texans would like to think of themselves as, and you can’t beat the Patriots without Brady, when can you?
“Those guys have a fantastic coaching staff,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien, a former Patriots assistant. “They have, what I think, is the best head coach in the history of the league. They do a great job. They have great players, coach well and they did a better job than us.”
After going three-and-out on Brissett’s first series of the game, the Patriots did that only once until the score was 20–0 midway through the third quarter. Despite having just three days between losing backup Jimmy Garoppolo to a shoulder injury on Sunday against the Dolphins, the Patriots ran circles around the Texans’ vaunted defense and veteran coordinator Romeo Crennel.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dialed up a varied offensive attack that took advantage of Brissett’s and the team’s strengths. The Patriots ran 39 times for 185 yards, including 11 combined rushes from Brissett and receiver Julian Edelman. New England augmented with a quick, controlled passing game that spread the ball among five receivers.
“They did a good job,” said star Texans end J.J. Watt, who was barely visible registering just two assisted tackles and no quarterback hits. “They never really put (Brissett) in a situation where he had to be throwing the ball too much. They did a great job in the run game, and did a great job all around and he played well being in a tough situation.”
Defensively, the Patriots frustrated the Texans by playing mostly with two deep safeties. This invited Houston to run the ball, but besides a 15-yard gain, Lamar Miller rushed 21 times for 69 yards (3.3 average). The Texans showed their conservative gameplan when on third-and-8 from their own 41-yard line with 7:41 left in the first quarter, Miller rushed for 6 yards and the Texans punted. Houston didn’t enter New England territory until there was 1:14 remaining in third quarter. The Texans’ deepest penetration was the New England 35-yard line.
Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins showed off his considerable skills with a sensational 14-tackle, one-interception performance.
The pick thrown by Osweiler was a terrible decision into New England’s Tampa 2 coverage. In the end, Osweiler, who will make $18 million this season, was outplayed by a rookie who will make $852,708. Osweiler finished 24 of 41 for 195 yards and one interception (60.6 passer rating). Brissett was 11 of 19 for 103 yards (72.9 rating) with a 27-yard touchdown run.
On first-and-15 from the Houston 27-yard line late in the first quarter, Brissett faked the handoff, bootlegged around right end, got key blocks from right guard Shaq Mason and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, and gave New England a 10–0 lead following the first of two Texans fumbles inside their own 22-yard line on special teams (New England scored touchdowns off of both).
At that point, the Patriots had the Texans playing on their terms, something that is not surprising no matter how many games you’ve played in at that stadium.
“Bill Belichick will always have his team ready to play, no matter who he’s playing (with),” said Texans tackle Vince Wilfork, who played for the Patriots from 2004-14. “We knew that.”
Even when you know it’s coming against Belichick and the Patriots, it’s almost impossible to do something about it.
At this rate, Belichick could take people off the street and win NFL games. Too bad Bum Phillips isn’t around anymore. He’d surely have something witty to say about it all.