Just stopping by to possibly offer some insights from a Pats fan's point of view, in exchange for some answers to some question I'm having about the Texans.
As far as the defense goes, its a very interesting comparison of styles I've gotten to see 3 Texan games in the last month (Pats, Colts, Cinci) and it seems to me that the Texans play defense with one basic style. An aggressive attacking front 7, supported by a secondary playing tough man to man coverage. It looked like you brought 5 men about 50% of the time.
In contrast the Pats front 7 plays 2 gap, even when in a 4-3. They blitz only about 20% of the time, and the secondary is generally in some kind of zone. I will mention however that recently (as its VERY YOUNG defense got more experienced, and Talib joined the team) they've played more man coverage and blitzed a bit more.
My first question is: Will Wade Phillips continue to "go with what got him here", or can he channel his inner Rex Ryan and pull a 180 and go against his basic philosophy and try to duplicate what the Jets did in the 2010 playoffs?
The Texans are likely to see the Pats at their season long healthiest. The Pats did lose 3 starters to the IR, which by the way, is a very good year for them (LB Dane Fletcher, CB Ras-I Dowling, and WR/PR Julian Edelman). But the OL which has been banged up all year has had a run of 4 games straight where all the starters have played. I think that's the longest stretch of the season.
Gronk has been out as you know and played about 20 snaps in the season ender, so some of the rust got knocked off. But he did favor the broken arm in the game when he blocked. I don't know if the additional 2 weeks rest has improved it. It didn't affect his receiving, but normally Gronk is the best blocking TE in the league. He wasn't against Miami. If he is again on Sunday, then the Pats running game will be improved.
My second question is this: After the Pats scored on its first 3 drives, the Texans for all purposes shut the Pats down for about 2 quarters, with exception of the Hail Mary-like TD pass to Stallworth. Was the Texan success during that stretch the result of an adjustment Wade made, better execution by the Texans, or poor execution by the Pats? I'm wondering if any of you Texan fans who get the "all 22" from NFL.com have broken that down.
Don't sleep on the Pats defense. It IS getting better, even though we are starting 3 rookies (Jones, Hightower, and Dennard) and have 2 more playing certain defensive packages (Wilson and Francis). I shouldn't have to remind you that the vaunted Texan Defense and the much maligned Pats defense allow exactly the same number of points to the opposition.
My Third question - On the opening drive of the first game, the Texans and Arian Foster ripped the Pats D for 3 runs of over 15 yds (one called back on a penalty), forcing the Pats to call a TO. It didn't look good. My question is what happened after that? Foster wound up with only 46 yds, the entire Texan running attack was limited to about 100 yds and 40 of those came on 2 runs.
The Texan running attack looked awesome against the Bengals. Foster was literally breaking the ankles of every Bengal LB out there. What happened in NE last time, and what's changed with the Texans that makes you think that it will be any different this time?
Finally, I can't tell you how impressed, I and most Pats fans were with JJ Watt. He was a big favorite with Pats draftniks when he came out....and there was a time where it looked like he might fall to us, I was both surprised and disappoint when the Texans took him at 11. And what looked like a reach at the time, turned out to be the steal of the draft.
What impressed me most was this. Statistically it would have seemed like the Pats shut him down. This was the ONLY game of the year where Watt didn't have a sack, deflection, or tackle for a loss this season. YET for anyone who watched that game, JJ Watt was the single most impactful defensive player that we have seen this year. (though ASmith was a close 2nd). That's hard to believe given he didn't record a single significant defensive stat.....and STILL stood out from the rest.
BTW- Nate Solder our LT was a nice consolation prize, who eventually will see a lot of Pro bowls, before he's done, but.....
Thanks for you patience, I look forward to your feedback