| The Providence Journal
HOUSTON — The Patriots probably didn’t think they’d find themselves in this position, but here they were – down by seven to a 2-7 Houston Texans team with 4:11 on the clock.
The Patriots trailed at NRG Stadium for most of Sunday’s contest, but as we’ve seen in games against Seattle, Denver, Buffalo and the New York Jets, it’s hard to count this team out. A Jekyll-and-Hyde performance from the Patriots offense and defense contributed to the Texans taking a 21-10 lead into halftime.
In a game that the Patriots desperately needed to win, Cam Newton and the Patriots offense once again came up short, losing 27-20 to the Texans. The Pats drop to 4-6 as their playoff hopes take a giant hit with six games remaining in the 2020 NFL season.
Sunday’s loss marked another low point in an already difficult season. Coming off an upset win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Pats failed to build momentum during a season that’s desperately needed some.
Newton finished 26 of 40 for 365 yards and a touchdown. Damiere Byrd put together a career-performance, catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. The Newton-led, offense, however was out-dueled by Deshaun Watson. The Texans quarterback threw for 344 yards and scored three combined touchdowns.
The Pats, however, still had a chance late in this contest.
Down by 7 with 4:11 left, Newton and the Patriots took over at the 25-yard line. They were faced with a third down with 3:20 remaining, but the quarterback hit Jakobi Meyers for a gain of 14. A James White 10-yard catch and run, with 1:56 left, put the Pats within striking distance at the 30-yard line. Faced with another third down, with 1:20 left, Newton’s pass was batted down by J.J. Watt.
The Patriots offense had one more opportunity, with 1:18 remaining, to move the chains. On fourth-and-4, the Texans pass rush got to Newton. The quarterback escaped, but his pass attempt fell short of any Patriots player for a turnover on downs.
After a Texans punt, the Patriots got the ball back with 19 seconds remaining. Newton hit Ryan Izzo for 9 yards and then with four seconds left, his Hail Mary attempt was caught, again by Izzo, but the tight end was 12 yards shy of the end zone as time expired.
The Patriots offense made it look easy in their first series. It took the team 10 plays to travel 84 yards to take an early 7-0 lead. Damien Harris (43 yards on 11 carries) finished the series with a 9-yard touchdown run at 6:52 of the first quarter.
The Texans came right back to tied the score at 7-7. Houston needed just six plays to travel 73 yards as Watson lit up the Pats secondary, and then found Randall Cobb for a 3-yard score at 3:36 of the first quarter.
The Patriots took a 10-7 lead when Nick Folk connected from 45 yards deep at 8:23 of the second quarter, but the defense struggled to contain Watson as the Texans took a 14-10 lead at 3:53 of the second quarter. The Houston quarterback hit Jordan Akins for 25 yards on third down. On the next play, Watson hit Cooks for 21 yards. Two snaps later, Watson ran over Ja’Whaun Bentley and Devin McCourty for the 4-yard touchdown run.
Defensive struggles continued as Houston took a 21-10 lead into halftime. Watson completed seven of eight passes in the Texans next series. Houston never saw a third down as Watson finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keke Coutee with 10 second left in the half. The Texans quarterback had 241 passing yards and three total touchdowns in the first two quarters on Sunday.
On offense, Newton started the game 3-for-3 for 58 yards. He finished the half 4-for-10 for 28 yards.
The Pats didn’t open up the second half on a good note. At 13:21 of the third quarter, Burkhead lost a yard on a third-and-1 run play. The back suffered what looked like a serious knee injury on the play and was down for several minutes as teammates knelt around him. Burkhead was eventually carted off the field and immediately ruled out.
The next time the Patriots took the field, Newton stepped up and the Pats closed the gap to 21-17. The Patriots quarterback hit Byrd for a 30-yard gain on third down to keep the series alive. On the next third down, with two yards to go, Newton hit James White right at the sticks for the first. Newton then threw one of his best passes of the season on the next play with a 42-yard bomb to Byrd for the touchdown at 8:14 of the third quarter.
Patriots and Texans both traded field goals after that. Houston extended their lead to 24-17 after a 36-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn at 2:04 of the third quarter. The Pats then ate up 9:25 of the clock, but only came away with a 36-yard field goal by Folk with 7:30 remaining as Houston led, 24-20. Byrd carried the Pats on that drive with three first-down receptions to eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark.
Fairbairn hit a 46-yard field goal to give the Texans a 27-20 lead with 4:11 remaining. There was plenty of enough time for Newton & Co. to do something. In the end, they came up short.