It was promoted as a bout between two heavyweight contenders, but it surprisingly concluded with a first-round knockout.
The Houston Texans’ (11-2) undefeated streak on the road, came to an abrupt end as the New England Patriots (10-3) took care of business and defeated the Texans 42-14 Monday night at Gillett Stadium.
For Texans’ fans, this game was exactly what everyone was afraid of.
Yes, Houston had only lost one game coming into this week, and yes, it had already clinched a playoff spot.
But one of the major items on the Texans’ to-do list remained unchecked as they left the field in disheartening fashion. That item: a win in a big game.
The “Bulls on Parade,” marched into the meadowlands looking for one thing – validation. But the Texas boys left empty-handed and out-of-sorts instead of the empowerment a win would bring.
For the Texans it was a game of missed opportunities.
Early on, the Patriots were knocking on the door of scoring the game’s first touchdown. It was first and goal on the Houston 4-yard line. New England quarterback Tom Brady handed the ball of to Stevan Ridley who attempted to shoot through the middle of the line. But the ball came loose and bouncing away from the crowd, landed near Glover Quin who scooped it up and took it to the house.
Actually the ball evaded any and all Texans’ hands and the Patriots retained possession. On the next play Brady completed a seven-yard pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez for the touchdown and a potential 14-point swing.
The Patriots took it, ran, and never even glanced back.
The rest of the game included Brady lighting up the Houston secondary, and the typically error-free Matt Schaub missing throws.
Schaub only committed one turnover, but it came at a crucial time and wrecked the Texans momentum.
Immediately following the Hernandez touchdown grab in the first-quarter, Houston was looking to even things up when Shaub dropped back to pass on second and eight from the New England 21-yard line.
Kevin Walter went deep, drawing the Patriots defensive backs’ attention, leaving a crossing Texans tight end wide open. But Schaub took a risk and threw to Walter, who was in no position to make a catch, at least relative to New England cornerback Devin McCourty who intercepted the pass.
The Patriots took the ball, and Brady led his team to another score, this time hooking up with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Brady added two more TD-throws, finishing with four, and completed 21-of-35 passes for 296 yards before all was said and done.
The Texans went down 28-0 before scoring for their first touchdown, which didn’t come until Arian Foster plowed his way into the endzone on a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
Now here is the good news: it’s not over.
This loss does not end the Texans season, nor does it leave them worse for the wear in the big picture.
Houston will almost certainly still win the division and enter into the playoffs as the top team in the AFC.
Obviously, you don’t ever want this to happen again if you’re a Texans’ fan, and so this game gives them some good things to step back and take a look at before the postseason arrives.
Maybe they aren’t one the elite teams in the NFL as of yet, but maybe and more likely, they are a young team with a few hard lessons to learn to experiences to have before they cement their status.
No, all is not lost for the Houston Texans.
There are still three games to play before the real prize can begin to be won or lost.
I mentioned before a Texans to-do list. On that list I believe the things that remain unchecked are: the ability to win in big games, entering the postseason with home field advantage, winning the AFC championship, and hoisting the Lombardi trophy.
Keep in mind that everything on that list is still very possible to cross off in this season.
As for now, the Texans will look to bounce back against the Indianapolis Colts in Houston next Sunday.
What happens then will be a good indicator as to how the season will wind up. Will the Texans bounce back with a renewed and fearsome vigor? Or will they wallow in their defeat, and give away all that they have accomplished in 2012?
We may look back in a few months and point to this loss to the Patriots as the game that symbolically ended the Texans’ run.
Then again, we might look and back and say it was the best thing that could’ve happened to them.
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