News & Analysis

NFL Week 11 PFF ReFocused: Houston Texans 27, New England Patriots 20

Nov 22, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) attempts a pass during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With Cam Newton on the opposite sideline, Deshaun Watson threw on the Superman cape and carried the Houston Texans to a 27-20 victory over the New England Patriots.

Watson picked apart the Patriots secondary in the first half and forced the New England offense to try and keep up without playing to its strength: running the football. 

New England falls to 1-5 when trailing at halftime. It is becoming increasingly evident each week that the Patriots' offense does not have the personnel to keep up with the more explosive units around the league. At 4-6 on the season, it appears Bill Belichick and his team will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. 

Editor's note: All of PFF's grades and advanced stats from this game will be finalized and made available to ELITE subscribers within 24 hours of the final whistle.

Story of the Game

Both offenses looked entirely different from half to half, especially the quarterbacks. Watson jumped out to a fast start, finishing the first half 18-for-23 for 241 yards, with 30 rushing yards and three total TDs. Newton almost led a successful comeback and completed 26 of his 40 pass attempts for 365 yards and one score. Unfortunately, he only mustered 85 of those yards through the first two quarters while Watson was going ballistic.

The Texans offense missed left tackle Laremy Tunsil and averaged 0.1 yards before contact per carry on the ground. The burden quickly shifted to Watson, who held onto the ball an average of 3.28 seconds per pass attempt and finished the game with six big-time throws. 

Watson performed particularly well in light of the fact that he was on the run consistently more than Newton. The Patriots' pass-rush generated 17 total pressures against Watson, who torched the secondary twice for touchdowns when the defense brought the blitz.  The Texans' offense averaged a negative EPA per rushing play, essentially playing with one hand tied behind its back — and still won.

Newton was under pressure on only 7.0% of his dropbacks, yet J.J. Watt managed to drop him on the penultimate drive of the game to effectively seal the win for Houston. 

Nov 22, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates with wide receiver Keke Coutee (16) after a touchdown during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at NRG Stadium. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots have issues at every level of the defense, but particularly in coverage. Watson distributed the ball to nine different targets, and Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Jordan Akins each finished the game with 80-plus yards receiving. Watson exploited Patriots defender Jonathan Jones at slot corner, completing 8 of 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. 

Rookie Watch

For the Patriots, offensive linemen Michael Onwenu continues to excel anywhere along the front. He played every single snap and surrendered nothing in pass-protection. Second-round pick Kyle Dugger found himself on the field for more than 75% of the defensive snaps and remains a work in progress. He was targeted five times and allowed four completions for 49 yards. 

The Texans’ trade activity in the past two years has drained the team of equity in the draft, and it shows on the field. None of their rookies made an impact in today’s game. 

ELITE subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more in Premium Stats 2.0.

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