FOXBORO — The New England Patriots arguably are the most guarded team in the NFL. But the Houston Texans are one of the few clubs that could claim to know at least something about how they operate.
That’s because Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel — as well as offensive/special teams assistant Wes Welker and special teams coordinator Brad Seely — all spent time under Patriots head coach Bill Belichick before coming to Houston.
So, does someone like Crennel, who was Belichick’s defensive coordinator for three Super Bowl title teams, have a secret formula for taking down New England this Sunday in the teams’ season opener at Gillette Stadium?
Not exactly, according to Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt.
“Obviously you try and gather as much information as you can with all the resources that you have,” Watt said Wednesday in a conference call. “But I think if anybody could figure out what (the Patriots) were doing up there, we sure would have tried to tap into that by now.
“I think that they’ve been extremely successful over a very long period of time where it proves that they know what they’re doing. They make adjustments, they do things very well. So, I definitely don’t think there’s any key or secret to beating them. I think you have to play very sound football, you have to play disciplined, everybody has to do their job and you have to play at your best.”
Houston hasn’t been able to do that in recent years, losing all four of its games against the Patriots with O’Brien and Crennel on staff. Crennel’s defense particularly has struggled to slow down New England’s offense, allowing a total of 124 points (31 per game) over those four contests.
For Watt, part of what makes the Patriots so hard to stop is the continuity they’ve enjoyed with quarterback Tom Brady under center and Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calling the shots.
“You’re facing guys with a ton of experience, a ton of knowledge, a lot of skill, a lot of talent and who work very hard,” Watt said.
” … (Brady) knows what he’s doing. His (offensive) linemen know where he’s going to be, he knows how to shuffle around and slide around to get into the open spot.
“I think he has a great relationship with his o-line in that manner, where they know where he wants to set up and he knows where he wants to set up, and if he needs to make an adjustment, he can.”
Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images