As the Patriots prepare for their first playoff game against the Houston Texans, they will certainly be watching plenty of tape on the Texans' most recent game against the Bengals.
Now, even though the Texans beat a red hot Cincinnati team, it didn’t seem to be the kind of win the Texans needed in order to have the confidence to go into Foxboro five weeks after a 42-14 thrashing and believe they have a chance to win.
The Texans, who have struggled mightily to put the ball in the end zone the past few weeks, saw their scoring struggles continue against the Bengals, putting up only one TD despite 420 total yards of offense. This would appear to play right into the hands of a New England defense that has played with a “bend, but don’t break” mentality most of the year. New England is 25th in yards allowed, but 9th in points allowed.
As far as the Texans defense goes, it was BY FAR their best performance in the last month or so. However, I think that was in large part, because of the play of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Dalton appeared to hold on to the ball far too long most plays which led to two sacks and negative—yes, negative—yards passing at the half. Dalton appeared to second-guess himself too much and didn’t seem to pull the trigger when receivers were open.
Tom Brady and the Patriots on the other hand, love to throw the ball, and they especially love to throw it quick. In their last matchup against the Texans, Brady was only sacked once and threw four TDs without one of his favorite targets, Rob Gronkowski. Much of that success came on quick reads that kept the Texans from being able to generate any sort of pass rush. This is a Texans team that averaged almost 3 sacks a game in the regular season, but have only managed 4 in their past 3 games combined now.
Does all this equal another blowout at Foxboro? Well, I guess we will find out soon enough, but one thing is for sure, the Texans are going to have to improve drastically in both of the areas mentioned above (getting pressure on Brady and not settling for field goals) if they want any chance against the Patriots on Sunday.
Follow Cole Stevenson on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson