FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s possible the New England Patriots were underestimated coming into the 2018 season.
The Patriots were favored over the Houston Texans by just 6 points entering their Week 1 matchup at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots dominated from the start, let up slightly in the second half but wound up beating the Texans 27-20 after Houston tried to make a final push.
Here are this week’s standouts:
WR PHILLIP DORSETT
Dorsett not only was the best wide receiver on the field for the Patriots, but he had the best game of his four-year career with seven catches on seven targets for 66 yards with a touchdown.
Dorsett has come a long way from 2017, when he made just 12 catches on 18 targets for 194 yards with no touchdowns. It’s a good sign that quarterback Tom Brady kept targeting Dorsett.
TE ROB GRONKOWSKI
There’s really not much left to say about Gronkowski, and that’s not just a cliche. He’s incredible. He catches passes over double coverage, and Brady has the trust to target him in those situations. He caught seven passes on eight targets for 123 yards with a touchdown.
Gronkowski did fumble after a catch, but that can be excused after the overall strong performance.
PATRIOTS OFFENSIVE LINE
All week, everyone talked about having block J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. They were all mostly invisible Sunday afternoon thanks in part to the Patriots’ offensive line blocking well for Brady. Brady also did a good job getting the ball out before pressure could bear down on him.
The Patriots’ offensive line surrendered two sacks and three QB hits. Backup offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who filled in for right tackle Marcus Cannon on certain drives, let up one of the sacks and a QB hit.
DE TREY FLOWERS
The Patriots’ front seven did a nice job of getting pressure on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in his first game back from a torn ACL. Flowers finished with 1.5 sacks and a QB hit. Deatrich Wise Jr. also brought the heat with 1.5 sacks and a QB hit. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy had a half sack and QB hit. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn had two QB hits. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive end Keionta Davis also each had QB hits.
CB JONATHAN JONES
The Patriots slot cornerback blanked his competition. He was targeted four times, didn’t let up a catch and had a pass breakup.
CB STEPHON GILMORE
The Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback had a tough assignment, tracking wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins around the field. He let up seven catches on 10 targets for 66 yards with an interception and pass breakup, which is not bad for going against one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL. He also was flagged twice for holding late in the fourth quarter.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images