Texans vs. Patriots: Defense Fails Houston Again in New England

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 13, 2013

The Texans lagged behind Vereen and the Patriots.
The Texans lagged behind Vereen and the Patriots.Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

For 30 minutes, the Houston Texans were able to hang with the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots.

Unfortunately, games last at least 60 minutes.

The heavily-favored Pats ripped off 21-consecutive points spanning the third and early-fourth quarters to break a 17-13 game wide open. Despite two cosmetic scores by the Texans, New England prevailed 41-28.

Much like their first meeting, the Patriots had their way with the Texans defense. Despite more strong play from All Pro J.J. Watt, the Texans only got to Tom Brady for a sack once and forced no turnovers. Brady picked apart the Texans' secondary and picked up three passing touchdowns, two to unheralded running back Shane Vereen.

The Texans simply couldn't keep pace as Matt Schaub had an uneven day. His final numbers were respectable (34-for-51, 343 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), but were greatly inflated by New England allowing short completions with a big lead fourth-quarter lead.

After an auspicious start for the Texans thanks to a 94-yard kick return by Danieal Manning, the Texans offense sputtered in the red zone. A potential touchdown was dropped by James Casey and Schaub fired high over the head of Andre Johnson in the end zone. The Texans got three points to start the game, but field goals were not going to beat the Patriots.

New England threatened to blow the game open early, responding with 17-consecutive points. The home team shook off an injury to Rob Gronkowski to torch a Texans' secondary which had labored mightily in recent weeks. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez didn't find the end zone, but they combined for 216 yards receiving as the Pats picked up scores of key third downs.

Brady's offense picked up 46 percent of third downs in the game en route to piling up 457 yards on the game.

The Texans moved the ball throughout the game but had trouble hanging points until it was too late. A key third-quarter drive covered 53 yards, but was cut short by a terrible interception by Schaub. He failed to elevate the ball over linebacker Rob Ninkovich in the middle of the field, cutting short a Houston threat.

By the time the Texans got the ball again, an 11-point lead had swelled to 18 as the game slipped out of reach.

While 2012 can't rightly be called a failure after 12 wins and another division title, the predictably premature close to their postseason run surely stings players and fans alike.

Ultimately, it was the continued failure of the Houston defense that prevented the Texans from attaining the lofty goals they had set before the season. Over their first nine games, the Texans allowed just 15.9 points a game. Over their final nine contests, including the playoffs, they allowed 26.9 points a game.

The Texans didn't look like a team built to compete with New England. In two meetings they were outscored 83 to 42. They sacked Brady just twice in 75 passing attempts, forcing one turnover in the two games.

Of course, Houston fans won't rue the loss to the Patriots as much as the losses to the Vikings and Colts to end the season. Those defeats cost the Texans the top overall seed in the AFC and prevented a rematch with Bill Belichick's boys taking place in the friendly confines of Reliant Stadium in Houston.

Without the added advantage of a rabid home crowd, it was clear the Houston defenders were incapable of making the necessary plays on their own.

While the Patriots battle the Baltimore Ravens for the right to return to the Super Bowl for the umpteenth time in recent memory, the Texans are left with a long off season to wonder about what could have been had they only secured one more victory in the regular season.