FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots beat Houston handily Week 1, but some fourth-quarter officiating nearly let the Texans back into the game.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was flagged twice for holding while covering wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins late in the fourth quarter when the Texans were inside the red zone.
The first holding penalty came on second-and-11 and gave the Texans a first down from New England’s 5-yard line. The second holding penalty came on third-and-2 and gave the Texans another new set of downs from the 1-yard line. They scored two plays later.
“I don’t know,” Gilmore said. “The first one, maybe. The second one, I don’t know. You can’t touch them nowadays. Just gotta find a way to win. (Hopkins) pushed off a lot, but they’re not gonna call that. You just gotta play it strong through and make plays when they come your way.”
Gilmore had an interception and did a nice job limiting Hopkins’ production while shadowing the star receiver.
Safety Duron Harmon was flagged for unnecessary roughness after an incomplete pass for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Hopkins with 38 seconds left in the game on second-and-11. The penalty pushed the Texans from their 1-yard line to the 16-yard line. They made it to the 43-yard line before attempting a failed hail mary.
“I felt like it was a clean tackle,” Harmon said. “All honestly, I felt like it was shoulder. My shoulder hit his back. You know what I’m saying? It’s a bang-bang play. We’ll see, but I feel like it was a clean tackle.”
Officials were particularly liberal with flags pertaining to player safety during the preseason.
“Oh yeah definitely gray area, but they just want to make the game safe,” Harmon said. “We’ll look at it as a team tomorrow and see what coach (Bill) Belichick says. If I need to switch something up, I’ll switch something up. If not, I’m just going to keep trying to play aggressive and keep playing the way I know how to play football.”
The Patriots wound up winning 27-20 despite the calls. But the penalties also made the game closer than it needed to be.
League officials in New York also didn’t contact officials in Foxboro quickly enough on a completion to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski they wanted to challenge. So, the Patriots also benefitted from officiating.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images