How the Patriots' first touchdown developed

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
4:56
PM ET
On the eve of the Houston Texans' next game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, let's take a look at a key play from this past Sunday.

The Patriots' comeback against the Texans began with a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to tight end Rob Gronkowski late in the first quarter.

Brady had enough time on that play that he could have stopped to have a sandwich before throwing the 23-yard touchdown pass. He showed patience, and even though his throw wasn't especially accurate, Gronkowski picked it up nearly off the ground and made the score 10-7.

The Texans rushed four, moving defensive end J.J. Watt outside the right tackle and moving outside linebacker Brooks Reed between the right tackle and guard.

Opposite them were Antonio Smith between the left tackle and guard and Whitney Mercilus outside the left tackle.

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips noted on Tuesday that no matter where he moved Watt, the Patriots sent their center to his side. This play was no different. At first that meant both the guard and center collided with Reed, before the guard shifted to Watt. On the other side, Smith moved outside but neither he nor Mercilus could get past the left side of the Patriots' line.

As a result, Brady stood by himself for five full seconds, surveying his options.

"We ran a stunt over there and they blocked it," Phillips said. "Yeah, the guy made a great catch, but he was going to throw to him early and we had him covered. He stayed with Gronkowski and Gronkowski made a [catch] off of his shoe tops. If you give a guy that long, he’s going to make plays. That’s why he’s such a great quarterback. A lot of quarterbacks would have brought the ball down or not thrown it."

Phillips sent inside linebacker Jeff Tarpinian to cover Gronkowski. Tarpinian stayed with Gronkowski for about 3.5 seconds before the tight end separated.

"Tarp is a good pass-defender," Phillips said. "He had him [Gronkowski] short on that play [the touchdown pass]. It wasn’t like he got beat deep for a touchdown. He was on him and then they had him."

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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