Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been tormenting the NFL since 2001. Throughout the years, plenty of teams have become their proverbial punching bags. Look no further than the Buffalo Bills for evidence. However, New England has had a tremendous amount of success against their Sunday opponent, the Houston Texans.
The Texans have faced the Patriots 11 times since 2003, including twice in the playoffs. New England has won 10 of the matchups, with the one loss coming in the 2009 season when Wes Welker tore his ACL in week 17. The playoff matchups have not been too kind to Houston either. The Patriots won both divisional round playoff games at Gillette Stadium.
Bill O'Brien has faced off against his former employer five times since becoming Houston’s head coach in 2014. The Patriots have won all five matchups, including a memorable 27-0 victory with Jacoby Brissett as Patriot quarterback. Over all, New England has outscored Houston 358 to 209.
While past events are not always indicative of future outcomes, the Patriots vs. Texans history highlights a larger component of New England’s reign.
One aspect of the Patriots continued success has been their mystique. So many times players and coaches become intimidated by New England, especially in Foxborough. The opposing coaches and players make an assortment of mistakes. The other team’s players often fail to play up to their standards. Poor special team play and ball management often become the difference in these games.
When the Patriots have lost games, especially in the playoffs, the opposing coaches and players were able to block out the Patriots aura. They are aggressive with the passing game and pass rush. The teams do not settle for field goals in the red zone and are not afraid to go for it on 4th and short. They play to win, they are not just trying to avoid a loss.
So that will be an interesting storyline of Sunday’s matchup. How aggressive are Bill O’Brien and the Texans? Will he decide to go for an early 4th and goal? Or will he just be trying to avoid disaster against Belichick and Brady?
The Patriots are set up to play with a lead and grind their opponent down. The defense can then tee off on the quarterback and let the secondary battle the Texan receivers. Playing in good conditions, with Isiah Wynn and N’Keal Harry healthy, the offense will be able to move the ball and make enough plays in the red zone to win.
If Houston lets New England dictate the way the game is played, the Patriots will be victorious. The Patriots wants to keep Deshaun Watson on the bench as much as possible. The Texans will need to get the lead and force the Patriots to execute big plays down field.
Brady and Belichick normally do have history in their favor. Many times the game is over before it starts. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself on Sunday Night Football.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones