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New England Patriots show offensive flexibility in home opener against Texans

Kicking off week one of the regular season for the National Football League, the New England Patriots came out of the gate in usual fashion, winning their contest at home against the Houston Texans on Sunday, Sept. 9

The highly touted return of Deshaun Watson, the rookie sensation that had blown up the highlight reels for a few weeks last season before tearing his ACL, was quite the flop in New England. Watson played more comparable to a rookie in his performance in New England than he did at any point last season. The Patriots defense had Watson behaving skittishly inside the pocket, and his nerves got the best of him on the first offensive snap for the Texans, a hand off to running back Lamar Miller, which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the Patriots within the Texans 20-yard line.

Mr. Ageless wonder himself, Tom Brady, came out of the gate in typical fashion. On a perfect throw, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on a corner post to put the Patriots up 7-0 just a few minutes into the opening quarter of the season.

But similarly to Watson, Brady also had his struggles to start the season, throwing a poorly timed crossing route pass that was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu, a free agent acquisition for the Texans this past off-season, helped set the Texans offense up inside of New England’s 20-yard line.

After a three-and-out by the Texans offense that saw the Patriots pass rush envelop the pocket, leaving Watson nowhere to run, a field goal from kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn put the Texans on the board, leaving the score at 7-3 late in the first quarter.

The Patriots, often known for their creativity, kept a stout Texans front seven at bay, giving Brady more than enough time to deliver throws down field to Gronkowski (7 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD) and wideout Phillip Dorsett (7 catches, 66 yards, 1 TD) to drive the Patriots offense up and down the field throughout the day.

While much speculation has been had in recent weeks as to who would be catching passes for Brady after wideouts Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks both left in the off season. The suspension of slot receiver Julian Edelman for four games to begin the season for the usage of performance enhancing drugs further dinged up the Patriots’ already suspect receiving core. However, as is everything in New England, Bill Belichick’s mastery of the depth chart meant that the next man up could perform the job just as well as his predecessor. Between Gronkowski, Dorsett, and wideout Chris Hogan, Brady had plenty of weapons on the perimeter, which will only improve when Edelman returns in week five against the Indianapolis Colts.

A familiar face returned to the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots this season as well. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was a welcomed presence back in the front seven for the Patriots, as his presence was felt throughout the game. The Patriots defense played at a higher level than expected out of the unit, especially considering the moves made in the off season.

On the day, both teams had their share of forced turnovers, through fumbles and an interception for each team. However, the Patriots were able to capitalize on their forced turnovers, which is what eventually led to their victory over the Texans at 27-20.

Next week, the Patriots head to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars in what promises to be a nice rematch of the AFC Championship Game from this past season.

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