The last time the Patriots and the Texans tussled, New England reminded Houston what it takes to win in the NFL.
Not only did the Texans not win that game, falling 42-14 on Monday Night Football, but they also had to slink back to the Lone Star State with some letterman jackets they had procured specifically for the occasion. They then fell short in the playoffs as well.
Houston’s struggles last season have taken on new light this year, as the Texans have fallen from being the toast of the NFL to a joke. There’s no word on whether their preseason plan of wearing the letterman jackets again — this time while welcoming the Patriots to Texas — is still on for Sunday, but expectations for the game are significantly different than before the season began.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak is among those who know just how wide the gap is between the Patriots and his Texans. He had praise for the opponents during his Wednesday conference call, especially after New England rose to 8-3 on the season last Sunday with a defining win over the Broncos.
“I just see them playing better and better each week,” Kubiak said. “They’ve obviously got some guys back and getting back to full strength. What they did in the second half last week is just phenomenal. Their leadership with Bill [Belichick] and Tom [Brady] has been consistent for so many years.
“I just, I see a team priming itself to make a run for a championship. They’ve got a lot of great players. The coaches on that staff are absolutely tremendous. I see themselves getting into position to go on that run that they usually make.”
Just a few weeks ago, the Patriots were anything but Super Bowl contenders. Dealing with injuries on defense and an inconsistent offense, they were fighting for their lives in the AFC. Now, however, they’re considered the conference’s best, with the new players they’ve had to add performing, too.
“They’ve had some new faces inside and those type of things, but have continued to play extremely well,” Kubiak said. “We’re very impressed with him, and they’re tough to deal with from a protection standpoint with the many schemes. So we have our work cut out for us.”
Adjusted expectations may bode well for the Texans this time.