New England Patriots

Darren Fells of the Houston Texans runs a pass in for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on December 1, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff,

The Patriots made it a little interesting in the closing minutes, but anyone who watched their 28-22 loss to the Texans knows that Houston controlled most of the game. So as a result, you’re not going to see many players getting the thumbs up this week – but there’s plenty of “down” players to spotlight after a disappointing defeat.

If Tom Brady were part of this exercise he’d count as a “down” because of his play in the first half. His interception set up the Texans’ first touchdown and gave them control of the game, which they never really relinquished. But the blame pie has many slices this week, so let’s get it over-with.


RB James White. It didn’t seem like anyone played well on the Patriots offense, but White had a monster game with 22 touches, 177 total yards, and two touchdowns. He continued to see coverage from defensive backs, which has hampered his production in the post-Gronk era. But it was a promising sign that he and Brady were able to connect so much later in the game on gotta-have-it kinds of plays. The Patriots absolutely have to get White going consistently if they want to solve their issues on offense.

WR Jakobi Meyers. Three catches on seven targets for 46 yards doesn’t look impressive on paper. But Meyers also had gains of 17 and 37 yards wiped out by penalties, one of which was a ticky-tack holding flag on Marcus Cannon. Meyers’ night was a tiny, but acceptable silver lining in another troubling night for the offense.

Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is pushed out of bounds by Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

Dec 1, 2019; Houston, TX: New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is pushed out of bounds by Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. (Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports)


WR N’Keal Harry. Hard to blame the rookie receiver for the quarterback trying to thread the needle to him with a cornerback nearby and ready to jump the route. But Harry also didn’t do enough to maintain inside position on the Texans’ Bradley Roby, and he’s going to have to use his size better if he wants to make contested catches at the NFL level. Harry barely played after Brady’s INT.

WR Mohamed Sanu. Sanu was brought to New England to make catches like the one tasked to him on fourth-and-inches in the third quarter. We can quibble over calling a pass in the first place, but it’s clear that the Patriots don’t trust their ground game enough to pick up an inch with third-string center James Ferentz in there, and he got blown straight back. It was on Sanu to make the catch and the ball simply clanged off his hands. Sanu also made a fair catch at the 7-yard line, which is never ideal for a punt returner.

LB Kyle Van Noy. You can lump all of the Patriots’ linebackers in here, because the Texans exploited them by making them cover running backs in space, which is not the strength of most of this group. Duke Johnson beat Van Noy to the outside on his touchdown, which was one of the easiest scored against the defense this season.

S Patrick Chung. Just like the linebackers’ struggles against the RBs, Chung and the Patriots’ safeties couldn’t consistently contain the Texans’ tight ends, either. Chung missed a golden tackle opportunity on a big gain by Jordan Akins, and Darren Fells was left open for a 13-yard touchdown that put the Texans up 14-3.

RT Marcus Cannon. It’s tough to put Cannon in this group because he’s still battling an illness. He briefly had to leave for Marshall Newhouse, and though he returned to the game, it wasn’t a good night for him. He struggled in pass protection and committed a holding penalty that wiped out a 17-yard gain for Meyers. The penalty wasn’t the strongest call ever, but either way it was Cannon’s worst game of the season.

More “ups” and “downs” next Sunday, after the Patriots play the Chiefs. Hopefully, for the Patriots’ sake, the arrow points back upward.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at