FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Following a flight across the country and with only three days to prepare for one of the NFL’s elite teams, the Houston Texans never really got started against the New England Patriots.
The Texans committed three turnovers that led to 14 Patriots points in losing their first game of the season 27-0.
Though it was a matchup of 2-0 teams, the Patriots looked like the better team from the start, even though New England started third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett after Jimmy Garoppolo left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. The rookie Brissett filled in admirably, though, and was 11-of-19 passing for 103 yards and added a rushing touchdown.
The Patriots scored on back-to-back drives in the first quarter and led 10-0 early. New England’s first touchdown came just one play after Charles James fumbled the ball on a kickoff return and Brissett ran down the right sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.
Houston never found a rhythm offensively, as quarterback Brock Osweiler looked overmatched against the Patriots’ defense. He finished 24-of-41 passing for 196 yards and an interception. The turnover came in the second quarter, when Osweiler was looking for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins across the middle. Osweiler has four interceptions in three games, and for the third time this season, the interception came when he was targeting Hopkins.
“There are no excuses for the interception,” Osweiler said. “My job is to protect the football and score points and lead this offense on drives to score points. The bottom line is that I didn’t do that tonight.”
A game after having two receivers finish with more than 100 receiving yards, the Texans had none Thursday. Hopkins led Houston with four catches for 56 yards, while receiver Will Fuller had three catches for 31 yards. Hopkins did impress with several acrobatic catches, including a first-quarter grab on the right sideline where he managed to control the ball and get his knee down while using one hand to break his fall.
The poor passing game was not helped by Houston’s running game, either. Running back Lamar Miller rushed for 84 yards on 22 carries, and the Texans didn’t cross midfield until there was less than two minutes to play in the third quarter.
Houston’s second fumble also led to a touchdown, which put the Patriots up 20-0. Both fumbles came on kickoff returns.
The defense that entered Thursday leading the league with nine sacks couldn’t get close to Brissett for most of the game, finishing with just one sack. Defensive end J.J. Watt, who missed all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury, had just two tackles.
The Patriots capped off the scoring with a 41-yard rush from running back LeGarrette Blount to put New England ahead 27-0. Blount finished with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
“We came into Gillette Stadium and got smoked,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. “We’ve got to regroup. They played a hell of a game. We’ve got to put this one behind us and move forward quick. It was a real surprise.”