Final, Patriots 36-33: What. A. Finish.
Tom Brady led an 75-yard go-ahead touchdown drive in the final 2:24 of the fourth quarter as the New England Patriots narrowly avoided a home upset against Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. Duron Harmon intercepted a Watson Hail Mary bid as time expired to seal the win.
Brady completed 25 of 35 passes for five touchdowns and zero interceptions in the victory, and wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught five passes for 131 yards and two scores, including the 25-yard game-winner with 23 seconds remaining. Chris Hogan also caught two touchdown passes for the Patriots.
New England will host the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Fourth quarter, 0:23, Patriots 36-33: Touchdown, Patriots.
Facing a third-and-13 after an offensive holding call on first down, Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 15 yards, Brandin Cooks for 18 yards and, after taking a sack and nearly being picked off on a deep pass to Cooks, hit Danny Amendola for 27 yards on third-and-17.
One play later, Brady fired a pass into the end zone for Cooks, who tapped both feet in bounds for a go-ahead 25-yard touchdown. Brady also hit Cooks on the ensuing two-point conversion.
Fourth quarter, 2:28, Texans 33-28: Some absolutely brilliant quarterback play by Deshaun Watson allowed the Texans to stage another lengthy drive, but they were forced to settle for a field goal after Lamar Miller was stuffed on third-and-1.
The Patriots have one timeout remaining and a five-point deficit to make up.
Watson, who’s in the midst of the best game of his young career, broke four tackles in the backfield before finding D’Onta Foreman for a 31-yard catch-and-run down the sideline.
Fourth quarter, 5:55, Texans 30-28: The Patriots again failed to pick up a first down on third-and-1. Marcus Gilchrist broke up a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski to force a three-and-out.
New England’s offense is running out of time here.
Fourth quarter, 7:19, Texans 30-28: The Texans were able to pick up one first down before punting it away and pinning the Patriots deep. New England will get the ball back on its own 7-yard line.
Fourth quarter, 10:28, Texans 30-28: It’s now Texans ball again after a very quick Patriots three-and-out.
Defensive end Christian Covington, who sacked Tom Brady earlier in the half, tripped up Mike Gillislee on third-and-1 to force another Ryan Allen punt. Gillislee carried the ball on all three plays, gaining 5, 4 and zero yards.
Fourth quarter, 12:13, Texans 30-28: A 34-yard catch-and-run by rookie running back D’Onta Foreman set up a go-ahead field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn.
Kyle Van Noy went for the breakup on a pass in the flats to Foreman and whiffed, freeing the Texas product to sprint down the left sideline. Safety Duron Harmon forced him out of bounds at the Patriots’ 20-yard line, and New England’s defense tightened up in the red zone.
This is the first time the Texans have reached 30 points since Week 17 of the 2015 season.
Third quarter, 1:49, Patriots 28-27: A sack on second down and a near-sack on third down killed a promising Patriots drive and forced New England to punt.
We say near-sack because Tom Brady somehow was able to pitch the ball to Rob Gronkowski milliseconds before he was brought to the turf by a horde of Texans defenders.
Gronkowski picked up 8 yards on the play, but the Patriots needed 21.
Third quarter, 7:12, Patriots 28-27: The Texans are not going away.
Londonderry, N.H., native Ryan Griffin caught three passes for 50 yards on Houston’s first drive of the second half, including a 12-yard touchdown reception over Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
Griffin also caught a 35-yard cross-field heave from Deshaun Watson earlier in the drive to pick up a first down on second-and-22.
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore sat out the series to receive treatment for dehydration, according to the team, with Jonathan Jones taking his place. With Eric Rowe out with a groin injury, New England has just three corners active for this game.
Third quarter, 12:45, Patriots 28-20: After Brandin Cooks caught just one pass on two targets over the first two quarters, Tom Brady looked his way twice on the opening drive of the third.
The first was a 2-yard completion, and the second resulted in a 42-yard touchdown that extended the Patriots’ lead. Cooks now has a team-high 88 yards on just three receptions.
Tight end Jacob Hollister caught his first play of the game during the drive — a 19-yarder down the right seam — but needed medical attention after taking a big hit from Johnathan Joseph.
Halftime, Patriots 21-20: The Texans and Patriots traded scoreless drives to close out the first half. New England will receive the ball to begin the third quarter.
It should be noted that Malcolm Butler had a very strong half for the Patriots after being demoted to third cornerback last week. He locked down DeAndre Hopkins on Houston’s latest possession.
Second quarter, 3:58, Patriots 21-20: The Patriots are back in the lead thanks to another wide-open touchdown catch by Chris Hogan.
One play after connecting with Danny Amendola for 17 yards on third-and-10, Tom Brady lofted a deep pass to Hogan, who was running unchecked through the Houston secondary. Hogan caught the pass in stride and dove across the end zone for a 47-yard score.
Second quarter, 6:15, Texans 20-14: Remember how we said Jadeveon Clowney was causing problems for the Patriots? Well, he now has a touchdown to his credit.
On the second play of New England’s latest drive, Whitney Mercilus blew past Nate Solder and hit Tom Brady mid-throw, causing the ball to pop out of the quarterback’s hands and into the waiting arms of Clowney, who sprinted 22 yards to paydirt.
Officials ruled Brady’s arm was not moving forward when the ball was knocked loose, so Clowney was credited with a fumble return for a touchdown, not a pick-six.
Second quarter, 7:01, Patriots 14-13: The Patriots got after Deshaun Watson throughout the Texans’ latest possession, but the rookie quarterback was able to avoid multiple sacks and guide Houston into field goal range.
Stephon Gilmore also was whistled for a personal foul following a DeAndre Hopkins reception, the cornerback’s second penalty of the game.
Second quarter, 12:25, Patriots 14-10: Stephon Gilmore took advantage of Deshaun Watson’s first big mistake of the afternoon.
A pass intended for DeAndre Hopkins instead soared right into the arms of Gilmore, who caught it and returned it 39 yards the other way. It was the cornerback’s first interception since coming over from the Buffalo Bills this offseason.
After a defensive holding call on the opening play of the ensuing Patriots possession, Tom Brady found a wide-open Chris Hogan for a 7-yard touchdown to put New England back in the lead.
Second quarter, 14:16, Texans 10-3: The Patriots picked up two first downs on a 22-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski and an 11-yarder to Chris Hogan, but a Jadeveon Clowney sack helped kill New England’s momentum, resulting in another Ryan Allen punt.
Clowney has been a tough assignment for the Patriots’ O-line today. He already has two sacks and two tackles for loss.
First quarter, 1:51, Texans 10-3: After a second straight Patriots three-and-out, Deshaun Watson drove the Texans 44 yards in just two plays to give Houston its first lead of the game.
Watson hit Braxton Miller down the seam for 15 yards, then connected with Bruce Ellington on a 29-yard touchdown pass. Ellington beat Patriots nickel cornerback Jonathan Jones on the play.
The Texans had such great field position because Tom Brady tripped over Mike Gillislee and fell at his own 2-yard line on the previous drive, forcing the Patriots to punt from deep in their own territory.
First quarter, 4:23, Patriots 7-3: Nothing doing again for the Texans, who gained just 8 yards on three plays and again were forced to punt.
Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch saw his first action of the day after sitting out the first two series. He played just six defensive snaps last week against the Saints.
First quarter, 6:09, Patriots 7-3: New England went three-and-out on its second possession.
Dwayne Allen, who has yet to catch his first pass in a Patriots uniform, had a drop on first down, and Chris Hogan was brought down 1 yard short of the marker on third-and-4.
Gunner Johnson Bademosi made an excellent play on Ryan Allen’s punt, beating a double team to tackle Texans return man Tyler Ervin at his own 18.
First quarter, 7:22, Patriots 7-3: Stephon Gilmore let up Houston’s first big play of the day when he was called for pass interference on DeAndre Hopkins, but the cornerback followed that up by making strong open-field tackles on back-to-back plays.
Gilmore’s second tackle brought up a third-and-6, and a scrambling Deshaun Watson stumbled and fell 2 yards shy of the first-down marker, forcing the Texans to settle for a field goal.
Outside of the pass interference, which resulted in a 31-yard gain, the Texans have just 21 yards of total offense thus far.
First quarter, 10:33, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots are on the board.
Tom Brady hit Brandin Cooks for a 44-yard gain just before getting crushed by the Texans’ pass rush, then found Rob Gronkowski in the end zone five plays later for a 5-yard touchdown.
LaAdrian Waddle started at right tackle for the Patriots, with Nate Solder starting on the left side after not participating in warmups. New England’s offensive line already is having a difficult time blocking J.J. Watt, who had three tackles and two for loss on that drive.
First quarter, 13:45, 0-0: The Texans went nowhere on their opening drive, with Trey Flowers sacking Deshaun Watson on second down and Watson throwing incomplete on third.
Danny Amendola returned Shane Lechler’s punt 33 yards to give the Patriots prime field position.
1 p.m.: A large group of Patriots players knelt during the national anthem. Others, including Tom Brady, locked arms.
Loud boos could be heard inside the stadium when the players took a knee.
The Texans received the opening kickoff and will start with the ball.
12:35 p.m.: Starting left tackle Nate Solder is active, but he wasn’t on the field for pregame warmups and stretching. The Patriots’ starting offensive line, from left to right, was Cameron Fleming, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and LaAdrian Waddle. If Solder can’t play, that would leave the Patriots with just six healthy offensive linemen.
In another surprise, special-teamer Marquis Flowers was among the Patriots’ defensive starters at outside linebacker. Flowers hasn’t played a single defensive snap this season, and he played just three for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2016.
The Patriots’ full starting defense was Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore.
11:35 a.m.: Several big-name Patriots will not play in today’s game.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and cornerback Eric Rowe all are inactive, as are special teamer Matthew Slater, linebacker Harvey Langi, running back Rex Burkhead and offensive tackle Cole Croston.
Special teamer Nate Ebner will make his season debut after sitting out the first two games, and wide receiver Danny Amendola is back after missing last Sunday’s contest in New Orleans.
With Rowe out, it’s very likely Malcolm Bulter will regain his starting cornerback job after being demoted last week. We’ll soon find out who will take Cannon’s spot at right tackle, as both Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle are active.
Wide receivers Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett and tight end Rob Gronkowski all will play today, giving quarterback Tom Brady a strong complement of offensive weapons.
11:05 a.m.: Former Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, back in town to host a pregame barbecue outside Gillette Stadium, had some strong words for Donald Trump this morning.
8:45 a.m. ET: The New England Patriots will look to improve to 2-1 on the season this afternoon as they host the 1-1 Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium.
This will be the fourth time these teams have squared off since last September, including pre- and postseason, with New England winning both meaningful matchups.
The Texans, who enter the game as 14-point underdogs, will look to ride a dominating defense led by J.J. Watt to an upset victory, while the Patriots will try to ride the momentum generated by last Sunday’s decisive win over the New Orleans Saints.
Running back Rex Burkhead already has been ruled out for New England, but several key players who are listed as questionable are expected to play, according to a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.
Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both said they were “good to go” in their final meeting with the media this week.
The status of right tackle Marcus Cannon remains in question, however. Cannon, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and a concussion, has fared well against Watt in the past.
This game comes during a tumultuous weekend for the NFL, which President Donald Trump blasted in a speech Friday night and in a series of tweets over the past two days.
More than a dozen NFL owners, including the Patriots’ Robert Kraft, have released statements condemning Trump’s comments, and Rapoport reported fans can expect an “unprecedented” display of pregame protests today.
Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder, safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Cassius Marsh were three of the many NFL players to speak out on the matter.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET. Keep it locked here throughout the morning for up-to-the-minute pregame updates and much more.
Patriots vs. Texans preview: What to watch for >>
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