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Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans punter Cameron Johnston (11) has a punt blocked during the third quarter against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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.”

  • Who Made The Play?

    HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 10: Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots recovers a fumble during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots recovers a fumble during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    The blocked punt wasn’t entirely self-inflicted by the Texans. Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy blew his blockers back, which left Johnston without enough space to get the punt airborne.

    “We finally stopped them on third down, third-and-short and Lawrence Guy just blocks the punt,” said linebacker Matt Judon. “It was [Lawrence Guy], correct, he got it? So, he blocks the punt and that’s what turned it around. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t me. I wish it was, but it was definitely [Lawrence Guy], and congrats to that guy. Congrats.”

    Judon had another big game for the Patriots defense, with two sacks, three QB hits, and two tackles for loss. He made both of his sacks in a three-play span on a drive that held the Texans to a field goal. But he credited Guy with making the play that really got the Patriots back in it.

  • 'They didn't give us the look'

    HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 10: Head coach David Culley of the Houston Texans reacts during the second half against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Head coach David Culley of the Houston Texans reacts during the second half against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    Texans head coach David Culley said they moved their punting unit around to see if the Patriots adjusted the way they wanted them to adjust, so they could run the fake. The Patriots showed good discipline, and Houston opted out of the fake.

    “That was a possibility that if they gave us the right look, when we did what we did there, that if it gave us the right look we were possibly going to fake it,” Texans head coach David Culley said after the game. “They didn’t give us the look. We were going to back out and then just re-punt, and it didn’t work out. We ended up having a leakage up the middle and ended up getting a block.”

    Obviously, the pre-snap movement ended up backfiring. And it’s fair to wonder why they’d even think about trying a fake punt up 13 points. The Texans aren’t good enough to be that confident in their execution, even up 13 points.

  • Five Up, Five Down

    HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 10: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 10: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

    Guy perhaps deserved an “Up” in the Patriots’ “Ups & Downs” from their win over the Texans based on the fake punt alone. He made the play on the game’s biggest momentum shift. But there were five other deserving “Ups” – along with some “Downs” in what was an uneven afternoon for the Pats amid their comeback.

    Among the Patriots who get the thumbs up for this one: QB Mac Jones, LB Matt Judon, and K Nick Folk. Among the downs are CB J.C. Jackson, RB Damien Harris, and S Devin McCourty.

    Click here to read the full Ups & Downs from Pats-Texans.