/Offense sputters as Patriots lose grip on No. 1 seed
Offense sputters as Pats lose grip on No. 1 seed

Offense sputters as Patriots lose grip on No. 1 seed


HOUSTON — The Tom Brady-led New England Patriots offense continued to slump in Sunday night’s 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans, a result that has knocked New England out of the No. 1 spot in the AFC.
The Baltimore Ravens, at 10-2, move into the top spot in the conference. The Patriots drop to 10-2, but because they lost to the Ravens on Nov. 3, they slide to No. 2 with four weeks left in the regular season.
While no longer possessing the top spot in the AFC, the Patriots have bigger concerns with their sputtering offense, which showed consistent signs of life only late in the fourth quarter when the Texans seemed to let down.
Brady finished 24-of-47 for 326 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception against the Texans, but that hardly reflects how much of a struggle it was. The pick came in the first quarter on a slant route to rookie receiver N’Keal Harry at New England’s 28-yard line, with Texans cornerback Bradley Roby making an exceptional play that was a turning point. The Texans quickly turned it into a touchdown to go ahead 7-3, and never trailed again.

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“Just execution, just have to do a better job. It’s tough to get behind and come back. We put ourselves in a pretty deep hole and you can’t do that on the road,” said Brady, whose Patriots scored 17 and 13 points in their previous two games, both victories. “We didn’t get the job done. A loss is a loss, and learn from it and try to move on to next week.”
Coach Bill Belichick added that the Patriots “weren’t good enough in any area.” He noted the Texans’ success on second down against New England’s usually stingy defense, and when asked if there was cause for concern with the offense, he said, “We all have to do a better job.”
Brady was 7-of-19 for 82 yards at halftime.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the 36.8 completion percentage matched the lowest in a first half in Brady’s 20-year career (minimum 15 attempts). He had been 7-of-19 in the first half of two other games prior to Sunday night, and the Patriots had rallied from halftime deficits to win both of those games.
While the Patriots had authored a historic comeback at NRG Stadium — overcoming a 28-3 second-half deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI — the Texans (8-4) ensured that wouldn’t happen again despite some anxious moments in the final minutes.
Bill O’Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator now in his sixth season as Texans head coach, earned his first victory over former boss Belichick, which included some razzle-dazzle as receiver DeAndre Hopkins threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter.
Watson became just the fifth player in NFL history to throw three passing touchdowns and have a receiving touchdown in the same game, and the first since Jim McMahon for the 1985 Chicago Bears, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Nick Foles, for the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Frank Ryan for the Los Angeles Rams and Ray Buivid for the Bears were the other players to accomplish the feat.
As for Brady, this wasn’t a game in which he was consistently pressured. Even as the Texans built their lead into the fourth quarter, Brady had been averaging 3.25 seconds to throw, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. Brady, who was emotional on the sideline during the first half as he implored his teammates to raise their level of play, had not had any games this season in which he averaged more than three seconds to throw.
He attempted to find a silver lining late Sunday night.
“We’re battling, we’re trying as hard as we can, hopefully we can make enough plays and be the best we can be,” Brady said. “All remains to be seen. You can make a bunch of predictions and so forth, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about going out there and doing it.”
Receiver Julian Edelman echoed a similar message.
“I think we’ll be all right. What I did see is a team that fought to the end, so you can take that and you can build off that,” he said. “It was ugly out there a little bit here and there. We didn’t play the way we wanted to. But you got to tip your hat to Houston. They played a helluva game.”
The Patriots return home to face the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) on Sunday, before a road game at the Cincinnati Bengals (1-11). They finish the season with back-to-back home games against the Buffalo Bills (9-3) and Miami Dolphins (3-9).
The Ravens visit the Bills, host the New York Jets (4-8), play at the Cleveland Browns (5-7) and then close the season with a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5).
The Ravens are 10-2 for the first time in their 24-year existence and are riding an eight-game winning streak, which is the longest in franchise history and the best current one in the NFL.
The Ravens have never finished a season as the top seed. Baltimore was the No. 2 seed in 2006 and 2011.
“We’re 10-2 and we ain’t done nothing yet,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told his players in the locker room after Sunday’s 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.
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