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Monday, December 10, 2012
Sharing some halftime thoughts

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime as the Patriots lead the Texans 21-0 at Gillette Stadium.

Impressive performance from the Patriots, and a few things stand out.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd said all the right things as criticism was growing last week (link here), and has followed that up with a few big catches -- a sideline grab on third down and then the long touchdown pass. Lloyd’s presence as an outside receiver is showing up tonight, as is his overall professionalism.

The Patriots opened with three straight runs, which was a statement of sorts because the Texans entered as the NFL’s No. 2-ranked run defense in terms of fewest yards allowed per game. Part of that was tied to teams not really testing them, as opponents averaged just a shade more than 21 carries per game against them, a league-low. The Patriots showed from the first three snaps that they weren’t going to concede in that area.

Defensively, the Patriots are matching receiver Andre Johnson at times with cornerback Aqib Talib. It’s not happening every snap, but it is a notable change from the way the Patriots usually play -- with cornerbacks on designated sides. Talib appeared to injure his left hip late in the second quarter, and that will be an injury situation to monitor (he remained on the sideline and was walking under his own power).

And with safety Devin McCourty coming up with a first-quarter interception, it almost makes you wonder if he’s settling in to a permanent home. There’s no moving him back to corner at this point, and perhaps not in 2013 either. The trickle-down effect is that Patrick Chung hasn’t played on defense.

The Patriots are generating solid pressure –- ends Trevor Scott and Rob Ninkovich split a first-half sack -– and Vince Wilfork has been impressive up front, “out-Watting” the Texans’ J.J. Watt with solid play against the run and a batted-down pass. The coaching staff has also dialed up some well-timed blitzes.

As for the Texans, this obviously wasn’t their best effort. They didn’t cover tight end Aaron Hernandez on Hernandez’s second touchdown, and the safeties bit hard on play-action on Lloyd’s long touchdown. While the pass interference penalty on Texans safety Danieal Manning was questionable -– which extended the Patriots third scoring drive –- there really was no reason for Manning to take such a poor angle and put the play in the hands of the official at all.

In the words of Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks, quarterback Matt Schaub doesn’t look ready for prime-time.

The Patriots, whose offense sputtered after three straight scoring drives to open the half, get the ball to start the second half.