The underlying theme of this great drama revealed itself early: The Patriots were determined to give this game away, and the Texans were unwilling—or more accurately—incapable of taking it.
Stephen Gostkowski booted the opening kickoff deep into the end zone. Daniael Manning decided to bring it out against the charging hordes. Next thing we know, Devin McCourty was desperately chasing him down and just prevented a touchdown, taking Manning down near the 10-yard line.
The scene was set for the Texans to deliver a reeling blow and make it quiet enough to hear a pin drop in Foxborough.
So what did the Texans do?
After Arian Foster was stuffed for a three-yard loss, Schaub’s pass went right through the hands of his receiver, and on third down, Schaub’s pass flew wildly over the outstretched hands of Andre Johnson, who was wide open in the end zone.
The result: Just three points for the Texans after an outstanding start, and the Patriot nation breathed a sigh of relief.
Another sub-plot also emerged early in the contest, with Danny Woodhead suffering a hand injury during the Patriots’ first offensive series.
Who would be the change of pace runner for Stevan Ridley?
Who would be the outlet receiver sneaking out of the backfield to relieve the pressure on Tom Brady?
The answer was Shane Vereen.
Vereen's marvelous over the shoulder catch and three touchdowns were not a bad day’s work for a guy not counted on to be a featured player.
A second sub-plot that emerged revolved around which player was more likely to make impact plays: J.J. Watt or Rob Ninkovich.
Yes, Watt is a great player with a great motor, but the Pats offensive line managed to make him ordinary, limiting him to half a sack and four total tackles.
Ninkovich, gimpy hip and all, had four tackles plus the game’s key interception. And he just happened to be the player who latched on to the Texans’ onside kick when everyone else seemed to be treating the pigskin as if it were greased.
Unfortunately, all the plot lines were not as happy for the Patriots.
Will Gronkowski's injury be the deciding factor when the Pats finally run into a team that’s really tough?
Will Tom Brady’s occasional fits of inaccuracy—and face it, in spite of some great passes, he was erratic against the Texans—come back to bite the Pats when the chips are down.
And do we now have to worry about the kickoff recovery team, or was this game just an aberration, a fluke.
Let’s face it, the Texans' kickoff returns were the result of gaping holes, not great running.
So, the drama continues on. I look forward to getting to the end of this wonderful theatrical act known as the NFL season. I hear there’s a surprise ending…
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