New England Patriots: Houston Texans

George Godsey to be Texans QB coach

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
To lead a position whose development will be critical to Bill O'Brien's success, the new Houston Texans head coach has chosen a man who once played for him.

Former New England Patriots tight ends coach George Godsey will be the Texans new quarterbacks coach.

Godsey and O'Brien's history goes back to O'Brien's time at Georgia Tech. O'Brien was promoted to quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech in 2001, Godsey's final year in the program. When O'Brien became the Patriots' offensive coordinator, Godsey became an offensive assistant in New England.

O'Brien tried to take Godsey with him to Penn State when he left New England, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick prevented it.

Godsey's last stint as a quarterbacks coach was from 2005 to 2008 when he served the role for the University of Central Florida.

It's very possible O'Brien could be grooming Godsey to become a playcaller. It's similar to the path he took to becoming the Patriots' offensive coordinator. This season O'Brien will call offensive plays, and it's not looking like he's going to hire an offensive coordinator.

A position that remains unfilled is that of offensive line coach. Mike Munchak, the former Oilers offensive lineman who was fired as Tennessee Titans head coach earlier this month, chose to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers instead.

Although most of his staff is set, O'Brien won't announce the staff until it's officially complete.

Live blog: Patriots at Texans

December, 1, 2013
Join our NFL experts as they break down the New England Patriots' visit to the Houston Texans. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 1 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.

Double Coverage: Patriots at Texans

November, 29, 2013
Andre Johnson and Chandler JonesUSA Today SportsAndre Johnson, left, and the Texans hope to surprise Chandler Jones and the Patriots.
HOUSTON -- The last time the Houston Texans faced the New England Patriots during the regular season, Houston was 11-1 and the hottest team in the league. To celebrate their youthful camaraderie, they ordered letterman jackets, the kind high school teams wear, and the jackets happened to come in right before the Patriots game.

That game marked a turning point for the Texans.

The timing of the jackets had nothing to do with the opponent; former Texans Connor Barwin and Shaun Cody were simply trying to create a tradition. That they lost so badly just after unveiling them turned the jackets into a punch line.

The Patriots won 42-14, and the Texans finished their season having lost three of their last four games. That meant losing the home-field advantage that seemed theirs before that game and led to another meeting with the Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs. New England won again, 41-28.

It was a lesson for the Texans in what it takes to be a great team.

Heading into this season, many thought the Texans were positioned to be one of the top teams in the NFL. The Patriots seemed poised for a down year, by their standards, but here we are in Week 13 and they sit in their usual spot atop the AFC East. Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and Patriots reporter Mike Reiss discuss the matchup.

Ganguli: Mike, how has the loss of so many of his top targets from last season impacted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady?

Reiss: We saw it impact Brady more significantly through the first eight games. But things have started to click the past two games, and it’s no coincidence that it coincides with tight end Rob Gronkowski's reaching a new level of comfort since his return Oct. 20, and running back Shane Vereen's coming off the injured reserve list. With those two joining receivers Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins, the pass-catching corps has been as stocked as we’ve seen all season.

I know it’s been a down year for the Texans, but is J.J. Watt still creating havoc? Is that defense still tough?

Ganguli: Watt is still creating havoc. He has 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He is someone opposing offenses must track on every play. The Texans' defense has played well, but it has holes. On Sunday, the Jaguars had success with the matchup of receiver Cecil Shorts against cornerback Brandon Harris in the slot. Injuries to middle linebacker Brian Cushing and strong safety Danieal Manning have been particularly damaging. The Texans have statistically been much better with Cushing than without him since he was drafted. Their attempt to add some mental toughness with Ed Reed didn’t work as they had hoped, so two young players are starting at safety -- Shiloh Keo at free safety and D.J. Swearinger at strong safety. Swearinger is the Texans’ rookie second-round pick. He will be really good, but right now he’s learning a lot about playing at this level. They haven’t allowed a lot of yards, but have allowed too many points and not created enough turnovers.

Speaking of turnovers, as I watched Sunday night’s Patriots game against the Broncos, it seemed every time I looked up the Patriots had either committed or forced a turnover. What did you make of that? Was it an aberration?

Reiss: The forced turnovers were the norm, as the Patriots recently ended a streak of 36 games with at least one forced turnover (Nov. 18 vs. Carolina). The Patriots' committing turnovers was a little more out of character, although one of the pressing issues facing the club is what to do with lead running back Stevan Ridley (3 lost fumbles in the past three games). The Patriots are traditionally strong in turnover differential, and this season is no different, as they are plus-8 with 23 takeaways and 15 giveaways.

I know this probably comes out of left field, but how is the playing surface at Reliant Stadium? Patriots followers remember the last visit, in 2009, when Wes Welker tore his ACL. I saw a recent game, and it looks like there are patches of grass on the field with noticeable seams in certain parts.

Ganguli: Not out of left field at all. If the game you saw was the Texans’ Nov. 3 Sunday night game against the Indianapolis Colts, this was a major topic of conversation that night. The field looked pretty bad, mostly because there was a college game played on the same grass that week. They replaced the center of the field, but the outer grass was a mess. The University of Houston has played five games at Reliant Stadium this season while its stadium is being renovated. It has played most of them on field turf. The Cougars will play again on Friday morning, and none of the grass will be replaced between that game and the Texans-Patriots game Sunday. I believe the thinking is that will give it enough time to recover. Something to watch, though.

Let’s talk more about defense to wrap up here. Will Aqib Talib be assigned to Andre Johnson on Sunday? How do you think he’ll fare?

Reiss: That would make a lot of sense, as Talib has often been assigned the opponent’s top receiver. After a rocky game Nov. 18 against Carolina and Steve Smith, he was very good this past Sunday night against Demaryius Thomas in the 34-31 win against the Broncos. Talib has been key for the pass defense. Meanwhile, the loss of key players to season-ending injuries (defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, and linebacker Jerod Mayo) has hurt the run defense at times, such as in the Broncos game. But they played a 4-2-5 nickel for most of the game, and I don’t think that will be as much of a factor against the Texans. The Patriots will probably be in their base defense more often, and they played well against the Panthers’ tough running attack in that package.

One thing I think Patriots followers would be interested to hear is what has happened to the Texans? How could a team go so quickly from the AFC divisional round of the playoffs and talking about “letterman” jackets to vying for the No. 1 pick in the draft?

Ganguli: Even with some of the missteps in the offseason, it would have been difficult to foresee this. There are a lot of issues, but I'll focus on the quarterback situation. The biggest mystery is what happened to quarterback Matt Schaub. He was never on the level of Brady, but he gave the Texans what they needed. He was consistent and productive. He actually played really well in leading comebacks against the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans this season. That seems so long ago. The Texans' turnover margin has been among the worst in the league all season, and Schaub was part of that. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw pick-sixes in four consecutive games. He threw one on the first pass of the game against the San Francisco 49ers, and that game marked the only time this season Schaub played poorly from start to finish. There were myriad other problems, but Schaub lost his starting spot when he suffered a foot and ankle injury in Week 6. First-year quarterback Case Keenum took over, but his play hasn't meant victories. In his first three starts, he played well in the first half and not so well in the second half. His most recent game, against Jacksonville, was his worst of the season. Keenum threw for 169 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.


Highlights from today's conference calls

January, 14, 2013
Here are a few highlights from today's conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:

* Belichick summing up win over Texans and looking ahead: "Of course we’re excited to be heading into the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens. It’s a great honor, really, to participate in the game; to be playing for the right to represent the AFC the following week. It’s a big challenge for us. The Ravens came back and won in our first matchup against them. We’ve had a lot of great games against them through the years. We know they’re a tough, formidable opponent wherever we play them. We know we’ll have our work cut out for us this week. We’ll have to play our best game. I think that’s the way it should be at this time of year. It’s disappointing to not have Rob (Gronkowski) available, but I thought that Shane (Vereen) and Hooman (Michael Hoomanawanui) both did a great job of stepping into the game yesterday and playing a significant role in terms of number of plays and their production, maybe more than was anticipated. I think that was a good example of our mental toughness and our ability to make adjustments and adapt to the situation at hand. I thought that was a positive in the game."

* Belichick on kickoff coverage struggles: "Overall our kickoff coverage this year has been one of the best things we’ve done all year. We’re right at the top of the league in kickoff coverage. We didn’t have a good play in the San Francisco game and then we had three bad plays yesterday, but overall that’s been probably as consistent as anything we’ve done as a football team for the entire season. Of course it’s disappointing. Those are plays that you don’t want to happen; certainly not three of them in one game. That’s not what we want. That’s not good enough. It has to be better."

* McDaniels on Hoomanawanui, who played 50 of 59 snaps after Gronkowski was lost to injury: "Mike certainly has some experience with our terminology from the time I spent with him in St. Louis. He's a hard worker and a guy who can learn multiple roles and his versatility is certainly valuable at the tight end position. He can play in some things, I think, in the kicking game, that helps us too. He's the kind of person that -- you certainly like to have guys on your team that can do different things and are unselfish and have some different skills that allow them to fill in and play backup roles in multiple different situations. And he's a young guy, too, that hopefully has a lot of future in front of him. Whatever players that come up in conversation, the only thing you can do is give an honest evaluation of what your experience was with the player, and then certainly Bill [Belichick] will make the decisions on those things."

* McDaniels on adjusting after losing Gronkowski and Woodhead: "Any time you have a situation come up like that in the game, you have people behind them that have certainly prepared hard and studied their game plan and been a part of our preparation that you need to go in there and step in and play well. I think credit goes to Mike (Hoomanawanui) and Shane (Vereen) for being able to go in there and fill in more than admirably in those situations. I think injuries are a part of our game. [It’s] certainly not an uncommon thing to go through over the course of a season where you have to make multiples changes over the course of a game or you have to go stretches and weeks without certainly people. Yesterday you take inventory of what has happened and what parts of the game plan may need to change. Certainly Rob is a unique player and he has some skills that allow you to do special things with him. I don’t think it’s really fair to say you just plug somebody in and off you go, but I though Michael did a great job with the things we asked him to do yesterday. He certainly did a good job in protection and in the running game and really played a valuable role for us there. Shane stepped right into the role that -- Danny would have handled some of these things and Shane was designed to handle some of them anyway. I think really the next man up stepped up for us yesterday and did a good job and again, they deserve the credit for that."

* Patricia on cornerback Aqib Talib: "Obviously it’s great to get another veteran player on the back end, someone that has some excellent experience in the NFL and can really fit in the younger group and kind of really just blend into the guys that we have and fit the pieces. He’s done a real good job, really coming in and adapting to our system, learning the defense as we run it and the different coverages that we play and overall just been an excellent teammate really, kind of a guy that the other guys fit in with and get along with and obviously then compete and play hard with. I think it’s just been a real addition for us from a teammate standpoint. Obviously as a player, he’s got a real good skill set for the position outside. He’s got some speed ability. He’s long. He can be physical and tackle and do some of the things that we’re asking him to do so it’s been a real good experience for us."

* Patricia on the Sept. 23 meeting between the Patriots and Ravens -- a 31-30 Ravens win: "It was a while ago but I think obviously you really have to analyze that game and take a good look at it to see where their team has evolved to from that point. What are some of the things that caused you some issues in the first game, some of those concepts that can repeat in the next game. You need to be alert and aware for, to make sure you have those handled. Some of the different things that you might see in the game that were some of their strong points, or obviously some weak points that game plan-wise you thought were good or bad that you might want to carry over or not carry over. I think along with this year’s [game], obviously take a look at some of the previous games they’ve played against these guys. There’s a good history of the two teams playing against each other, real competitive game. I think you’re going to try to analyze all that and take a look at it and see what you can come up with that will hopefully help put you in a successful situation for the weekend."

Reiss: Moving on without Gronk

January, 13, 2013

In the video above,'s Mike Reiss talks about what losing Rob Gronkowski (forearm) for the rest of the postseason means for the team and touches on other injuries of note that we'll be paying attention to this week.

The stats that tell the story of Pats-Texans

January, 13, 2013
The Houston Texans elected to pursue New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with nearly the same fervor that they did when the Patriots clobbered them in Week 14.

And on Sunday they paid a similar price.

Brady was 12 for 19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass rushers, as part of a 344-yard, three-touchdown day. As you can see in the chart on the right, it mimicked his performance in Week 14.

Brady passed Joe Montana for most postseason starts won with his 17th.

He’ll tie Montana for the most conference championship game starts when he faces the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship next Sunday. He also joined Montana and Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 40 postseason touchdown passes.

Brady wasn’t the only one to have a huge game in the Patriots' 41-28 win. Let’s take a look at some of the other statistical highlights.

* Vereen leads ground game: Patriot running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 219 total yards (48 percent of the Patriots offense) and four touchdowns, showcasing an inside running game the Patriots haven’t had in recent postseason appearances.

Nearly all (113) of their 123 rushing yards came inside the tackles, an average of more than six per rush. In the previous three postseasons, Patriots running backs averaged only 3.5 yards when running inside the tackles.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Vereen became the third player in NFL postseason history with two touchdown receptions and a touchdown run in a postseason game. He joins Roger Craig (1984 San Francisco 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994 49ers), each of whom did so in a Super Bowl.

Vereen also tied the Patriots record for most touchdowns in a postseason game, matching a mark previously set by Curtis Martin and Rob Gronkowski.

Vereen collected 58 receiving yards and two receptions and a touchdown when lined up wide, only the third touchdown for a running back lined up wide this season, and the most such receiving yards for a RB in a game over the last three seasons in any game.

* Schaub struggles on third down: Matt Schaub was 7 of 12 for 71 yards and an interception on third down Sunday, converting only three of the attempts for first downs. In the Week 14 matchup against the Patriots, Schaub converted only one of his seven third down pass attempts for a first down.

* Welker comes up big: Wes Welker’s 131 receiving yards were a career-high, surpassing his previous best of 103
in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants.

Welker entered the game with a league-high 669 yards after the catch. He had 62 in this game.

With eight catches Welker also broke the Patriots postseason record for career receptions, his 61 surpassing Troy Brown’s record of 58.

* Brady effective with 2-plus tight ends after Gronk injury: Even though Rob Gronkowski left the game with 8:10 left in the first quarter, Tom Brady was still very effective with two or more tight ends on the field. Brady threw for a season-high 244 yards and tied a season-high with three touchdowns with two or more tight ends after Gronkowski’s injury. The Patriots used multiple tight end sets on 56-of-65 plays (86.2 percent), their second-highest percentage of the season.

* Patriots continue red zone success: The Patriots used their up-tempo offense effectively, especially in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns in five possessions (not counting possession with kneel down). During the regular season, they scored a touchdown on 70 percent of their red zone possessions, the highest rate in the NFL.

* Looking ahead: Patriots-Ravens will be the first AFC Championship rematch since the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns faced each other in both 1986 and 1987.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will face the Patriots in Foxborough for the seventh time. He’s 0-4 against them in the regular season, 1-1 in the postseason.

Compiled by ESPN Stats & Information’s Bobby Greenhalgh, Doug Clawson, Joey Koontz and Michael Bonzagni.

Watt: 'No drama' to spitting on Pats logo

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt created a minor stir in the Twitterverse before Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium, when reporters noticed him spitting on the Patriots logo at midfield and proceeding to wipe his feet on it.

It wasn’t exactly Terrell Owens spiking the ball on the giant star logo at Cowboys Stadium, but Patriots fans obviously were disheartened to hear of an opponent disrespecting the Flying Elvis like that.

After the game, Watt said he wasn’t insulting his opponent, just performing a normal part of his pregame ritual.

“I do that every game, home or away,” Watt said. “I go out to midfield, I jog out there, spit a little bit, wipe my feet off and I go through my stretching. No drama there, that’s what I do every game home or away.”

Patriots injuries we'll be monitoring

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots may be advancing to the AFC Championship, but their win over the Houston Texans on Sunday was still costly, with three players leaving and not returning due to injuries.

Here's the latest on each. We'll follow up with more after the team's postgame locker room session.

* TE Rob Gronkowski -- Falling on his injured left forearm on a catch out of bounds in the first quarter, Gronkowski departed for the locker room and did not return. Gronkowski suffered another broken forearm, the same injury that kept him out of five games late this season, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The Pro Bowl tight end will need to have surgery again, and is out for the postseason, Schefter reports.

* DE Chandler Jones -- The Patriots' first-round pick left the game late in the second quarter and stayed on the sidelines, but did not re-enter the contest. According to the team, it's an ankle injury, although it's unclear at this point if it's related to the ankle injury that caused him to miss two games earlier this season.

* RB Danny Woodhead -- Woodhead was injured after taking a carry on the Patriots first offensive snap of the game. He briefly left for the locker room, but returned to the sidelines with a wrap on his left thumb. He did not re-enter the game.

Source: Gronk done for postseason

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski re-injured his left forearm in the first quarter of the team's divisonal round game over the Houston Texans on Sunday and is out for the remainder of the postseason, a source told ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter. He will need surgery, the source said.

The injury occurred on a play in which Gronkowski attempted to make a catch down the sideline, but left the game in visible pain. He later departed the sidelines with members of the team's medical staff, and did not return.

Gronkowski's original injury came on Nov. 18 against the Indianapolis Colts, and cost him five games.

Quick-hit thoughts after third quarter

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Entering the final period of play, the Patriots lead the Texans 31-13. Passing along quick-hit notes and observations from the third quarter.

1. Pats cruise on opening drive. The Patriots needed just 3:30 to march down the field on their opening drive to score a touchdown and extend their halftime lead to 11 points. The drive was aided in large part by a 40-yard completion to tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of two receptions for him on the series. Stevan Ridley eventually capped it off with an eight-yard score, as the Patriots made it look easy against the Houston defensive front.

2. Still no Gronkowski, Woodhead; Jones not on field. A return from tight end Rob Gronkowski looks unlikely, as he remains out after suffering a second quarter arm injury. Running back Danny Woodhead has been on the sidelines with a wrap on his left thumb, but has not stepped back onto the field (Gronkowski has not returned to the sidelines). Meanwhile, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones has remained out since leaving the game late in the second quarter, and is questionable to return with an ankle injury. The Patriots have shifted to some three man defensive fronts with Jones off the field.

3. Ninkovich snags big interception. The Texans had something going on offense, but defensive end Rob Ninkovich managed to disguise a coverage and leap for an interception of Matt Schaub. The big play stalled what had been Houston's best offensive series of the quarter, and gave the Patriots their first forced turnover of the day. Ninkovich has not shown ill-effects of a Week 17 hip injury.

4. Lloyd scores in postseason debut. Veteran wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is making his playoff debut today, and he is off to a good start with a third quarter touchdown catch to put the Patriots up 31-13. Lloyd's four-yard score concluded yet another easy drive for the Patriots offense, with Ridley doing much of the heavy lifting on the ground. The Texans had few answers for New England in the third quarter.

5. Penalty box.
No Patriots were flagged for penalties during the third quarter.

Jones questionable to return

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones left in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans with an ankle injury. The team announced his return is questionable.

Jones came off the field late in the second quarter, later speaking to members of the team's medical staff on the sideline.

The 2012 first-round draft pick returned to the sideline for the start of the second half, but has not re-entered the game. He was replaced by undrafted rookie Justin Francis.

Quick-hit thoughts from the first quarter

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After 15 minutes of play, the Patriots lead the Texans 7-3. Passing along quick-hit thoughts from the first quarter.

1. Big kickoff return allowed to start. The Patriots special teams have been a strength of the team this season, particularly the coverage units. But the Texans returned the opening kickoff of today's game 94 yards to set them up at the 12-yard line of the Patriots. That's 32 yards longer than any other kickoff return allowed by the team this season, and it allowed Houston to open the scoring with a field goal. The Patriots defense did well to prevent an early touchdown. Credit Devin McCourty for the touchdown-saving tackle on the kickoff.

2. Starters in place. The Patriots started off the game as healthy as they've been all season, and that was reflected in their starting lineup. The offense featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, while on defense the secondary was made up of Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback, with Devin McCourty alongside Steve Gregory at safety. But ...

3. Gronk, Woodhead banged up. The Patriots have a couple of injury issues on the offensive side of the ball that could become major concerns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski left the game with an arm injury and is questionable to return, while running back Danny Woodhead is also questionable to return after suffering a left thumb injury. Both players were escorted by members of the team's medical staff to the locker room, where it's possible they are undergoing x-ray examinations.

4. Talib matching Johnson. Just as the Patriots opted to do back in Week 14, cornreback Aqib Talib has been used early in the game to shadow Andre Johnson, the Texans best receiver by a wide margin. That's yet another testament to the confidence the Patriots have in Talib's man-to-man coverage ability, and a sign that he is close to full health after dealing with a hip injury in the weeks since the first Houston game. So far, Johnson has two catches.

5. Vereen finds the end zone. Running back Shane Vereen found the end zone for a late first quarter score, capping off an impressive drive that featured solid play from fellow running back Stevan Ridley. The Patriots have used both Ridley and Vereen in Woodhead's absence, as the veteran Woodhead actually started the game.

6. Penalty box. No Patriots were flagged for penalties in the first quarter.

Gronkowski questionable with arm injury

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski left in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans after reinjuring his left arm. The team announced his return as questionable.

Gronkowski caught a second-down pass out of bounds, falling on his left arm. The Pro Bowl tight end broke his left forearm in a Nov. 18 game, and returned to play two weeks ago in the regular season finale.

While being examined on the sideline by team medical personnel, Gronkowski grasped several times at his left forearm/wrist, where he was already wearing a protective wrap for the game.

Gronkowski later departed for the locker room.

Injured Woodhead questionable to return

January, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead left in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Houston Texans with a left thumb injury. The team announced his return was questionable.

Woodhead immediately came off the field after taking a hand-off on the Patriots' first offensive play of the game. He then departed for the locker room accompanied by team medical personnel.

The 27-year old Woodhead played in all 16 games this season, making two starts.

UPDATE: Woodhead did not return to action, although he was on the Patriots' bench from the second quarter on.

Mayne on Houston-Boston newspaper feud

January, 13, 2013

In the video above, Kenny Mayne examines the "heated" exchange of blows between the hometown newspapers of the Patriots and Texans, as only Kenny can.