After the Patriots scored 16 unanswered points to come back and beat the Texans on Sunday, it was easy to go back and pinpoint the moment the game changed.
Third quarter, up 22-9, the Texans had to punt. Instead of pinning the Patriots back and playing defense, Houston used pre-snap motion to show the possibility of a fake, and run it if the Patriots gave them an opening. Ultimately, Texans punter Cameron Johnston moved back to kick, but ended up clanging it off the helmet of teammate Terrence Brooks. The ball fluttered out of bounds and the punt netted zero yards.
Four plays later, the Patriots had come away with three points, and their comeback was set in motion. And the Texans’ punting misadventures, which came when they were still in firm control of the game, proved to be an unnecessary risk that gave the Patriots life.
After Chris Conley’s deep touchdown on a flea flicker, the Patriots outscored the Texans 16-0 for the rest of the game to eke out a hard-earned victory in a tale of two halves. The Texans certainly had plenty of opportunities to regain momentum in the game after the punting miscue, but it’s clear that the net-zero kick was the biggest turning point.
“I thought the blocked punt was a key play in the game for us, even though we only got a field goal out of it, which ended up being a three-point game,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick after the game. “I thought that was a big momentum play and thought our kicking and special teams played well.”