Patriots Vs. Texans Live: Late New England Rally Falls Short In 28-22 Loss

Final, Texans 28-22: The New England Patriots were humbled in Houston on Sunday night, falling to the Texans 28-22 at NRG Stadium.

The game featured the same assortment of offensive struggles for New England, as well as an uncharacteristically shaky defense.

Tom Brady and Co. did not find the end zone until the waning seconds of the third quarter, and the Patriots surrendered four passing touchdowns — three by Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and one by wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Watson on a trick play.

New England’s offense eventually found its footing, scoring touchdowns on each of its final three possessions, and Brandon Bolden very nearly recovered Jake Bailey’s onside kick in the final minute. He could not, however, allowing Houston to end the game with two final kneeldowns.

The loss knocked the Patriots, who battled a flu bug this week that caused nine players to miss practice, from their perch atop the AFC standings. They now trail the Baltimore Ravens by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker and no longer control their own destiny in the battle for home-field advantage.

The Patriots will host Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Fourth quarter, 2:36, Texans 28-15: Three-and-out for the Texans, followed by a punt that was downed at the 5.

The Patriots need two touchdowns and are out of timeouts.

Fourth quarter, 3:42, Texans 28-15: Touchdown, Patriots.

Tom Brady hit James White from 11 yards out to cap a 13-play, 75-yard drive that featured one fourth-down conversion. It was White’s second touchdown of the night.

The Patriots have found the end zone on each of their last two drives, but both drained more than five minutes off the clock. Likely too little, too late.

Fourth quarter, 9:53, Texans 28-9: The Texans are racking up points — and style points.

Houston capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a trick-play touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins — who made two big catches earlier in the drive — took a reverse handoff from running back Duke Johnson and flipped an option pitch to Deshaun Watson, who dove for the pylon.

The play was ruled a passing touchdown for Hopkins.

Third quarter, 0:11, Texans 21-9: The Patriots finally found the end zone after picking up big yardage on catches by Ben Watson (23 yards) and Julian Edelman (44 yards on first-and-30) and having two more chunk plays (17- and 37-yard receptions by Jakobi Meyers) called back.

James White did the honors, catching a swing pass from Tom Brady and jogging in for a 12-yard score.

The Patriots initially attempted a two-point conversion, but after being flagged for delay of game, they opted for an extra point, instead. That decision backfired. New kicker Kai Forbath shanked his longer point-after wide right, adding to the issues New England has experienced in this ugly performance.

Third quarter, 5:41, Texans 21-3: Jonathan Jones made an excellent play to prevent a touchdown — but only temporarily.

One play after Jones jarred the ball from Will Fuller’s grasp in the end zone, Kenny Stills beat him deep — to almost the exact same spot — for a 35-yard score.

Officials appeared to miss a hold by Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil before Deshaun Watson released the ball.

The Patriots have rallied from larger deficits in this same building before, but given the current state of their offense, this will be a very difficult hole to climb out of.

Adding to that difficulty: center Ted Karras has been ruled out with a knee injury. James Ferentz will be the man in the middle for the remainder of this game.

Third quarter, 7:08, Texans 14-3: The Patriots finally manufactured a chunk play when James White took a handoff and dashed around the right end for 32 yards.

White’s run came one play after Tom Brady hit Mohamed Sanu over the middle for a first down on third-and-5.

Brady also looked Sanu’s way on two plays later in the drive. The veteran wideout picked up 3 1/2 yards on third-and-4, then couldn’t hold on to a pass on fourth-and-inches, resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Patriots also lost center Ted Karras to an injury. James Ferentz finished out the drive while Karras, who’d played every offensive snap this season, was evaluated in the sideline medical tent.

Third quarter, 12:31, Texans 14-3: Strong response by the Patriots defense.

Dont’a Hightower sacked Deshaun Watson, Jonathan Jones broke up a pass to Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson was tackled short of the line to gain on third-and-19. Jones is having another very strong game.

Marcus Cannon, who missed the last Patriots series, is back in at right tackle for New England.

Third quarter, 12:31, Texans 14-3: Bradley Roby had what would have been his second interception of the game wiped off the board by a defensive hold, but he rebounded by burying Tom Brady in the backfield to force a Patriots punt.

New England’s offense remains stuck in neutral.

Halftime, Texans 14-3: A nifty sideline catch by Jakobi Meyers was the bright spot in another frustrating Patriots possession to close out the first half.

Since Julian Edelman’s two third-down catches on the opening drive, Patriots wide receivers have combined for two catches (both by Meyers) on 14 targets, with Houston routinely blanketing Edelman with double coverage. Tom Brady went 7-for-19 overall for 82 yards with an interception in the first half.

The Patriots also have largely abandoned the run. Sony Michel carried the ball six times on the first series but has just one rush since.

New England desperately needs a spark offensively. They’ll receive the second-half kickoff.

Second quarter, 1:05, Texans 14-3: A John Simon sack and a big stop by Jonathan Jones on third down forced a Texans punt.

The Patriots, who will receive the second-half kickoff, now have 65 seconds to regain some momentum offensively before the break.

Second quarter, 2:28, Texans 14-3: The Patriots punted after Tom Brady was swarmed and sacked on third down.

Brady did find tight end Matt LaCosse for a nice 24-yard pickup earlier in the drive, but positive plays have been few and far between for this Patriots offense since their opening series.

Second quarter, 6:21, Texans 14-3: The Patriots are having trouble covering Houston’s tight ends and running backs, and the Texans are taking advantage.

Deshaun Watson completed just one pass to a wide receiver (a 13-yarder to DeAndre Hopkins against Stephon Gilmore) as he led a 13-play, 88-yard drive that culminated in a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darren Fells.

Watson also pulled off a miraculous escape to evade a would-be sack by John Simon early in the drive.

Second quarter, 13:13, Texans 7-3: Tom Brady scrambled 16 yards for a first down on third-and-7 but left the field steaming minutes later after a lapse in communication with rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers led to a Patriots punt.

Brady wanted Meyers to turn upfield as the QB left the pocket on third down, but Meyers stayed put, resulting in an incompletion. This wasn’t the young wideout’s first miscue this season, and Brady made his displeasure known after the play.

First quarter, 0:38, Texans 7-3: A Tom Brady interception set up the Texans’ first touchdown of the night.

With the Patriots facing a third-and-4 in their own territory, cornerback Bradley Roby jumped a N’Keal Harry in-cut and snatched the ball away from the rookie wide receiver, who fell down as it arrived.

Three plays later, Deshaun Watson hit running back Duke Johnson for a 14-yard score. Kyle Van Noy, who sacked Watson on the previous series, was in coverage on the play.

First quarter, 2:49, Patriots 3-0: The Texans had more success moving the ball on their second possession, with DeAndre Hopkins beating zone coverage over the middle to move the chains on third-and-4.

The Patriots got the upper hand on Houston’s next third down, however, with Kyle Van Noy torching Laremy Tunsil off the edge for a sack to force a Texans punt. Kyle Van Noy’s celebration wasn’t bad, either.

Tunsil also was flagged for holding on the drive.

First quarter, 7:04, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots were committed to the run on their opening drive, keeping the ball on the group on nine of their first 11 plays.

The lone passes during that span were third-down completions to Julian Edelman. Sony Michel, who’s running well thus far, brought the Patriots into the red zone with a 17-yard dash up the middle.

The Patriots also benefited from an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on former Pats linebacker Barkevious Mingo. They settled for a 23-yard Kai Forbath field goal after two Tom Brady passes into the end zone fell incomplete.

First quarter, 14:05, 0-0: Zero yards for the Texans on their opening drive. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Terrence Brooks brought pressure to force a Deshaun Watson incompletion on third-and-10.

Stephon Gilmore has shadowed Houston star wideout DeAndre Hopkins thus far, with J.C. Jackson following Will Fuller and Jonathan Jones sticking on Kenny Stills.

First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the opening coin toss and deferred. Jake Bailey will kick off to get things started here on “Sunday Night Football.”

7:25 p.m.: Kai Forbath missed wide left from 48 yards in warmups but was good from 53 with room to spare.

The Patriots are one of just two teams (along with the New York Giants) that have yet to attempt a 50-plus-yard field this season. We’ll find out what Forbath’s range is tonight.

Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Rex Burkhead and Julian Edelman all took punt-return reps during warmups. The team used Edelman and Burkhead in that role last week with Sanu sidelined.

6:55 p.m.: Remember the Letterman Jacket Game? This might be remembered as the SWAT Jacket Game.

Reminder: The Patriots won the Letterman Jacket Game 42-14.

6:50 p.m.: Here are tonight’s Patriots inactives:

CB Jason McCourty
DL Byron Cowart
TE Ryan Izzo
RB Damien Harris
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
QB Cody Kessler
OT Korey Cunningham

Of the 15 players listed as questionable, only Eluemunor is inactive, and the fact he completed a pregame warmup suggests he is a healthy scratch.

The list of notable active players includes cornerback Stephon Gilmore, wide receivers Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, linebackers Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy and safety Patrick Chung.

Dorsett and Sanu are back after missing last week’s game.

6:04 p.m.: Running back Damien Harris, quarterback Cody Kessler and offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor are going through the pregame workout typically reserved for inactive players.

With Ryan Izzo, Jason McCourty and Byron Cowart already are ruled out, the Patriots will need to deactivate one additional player.

5:20 p.m.: The Patriots will trot out yet another new kicker today as Kai Forbath replaced Nick Folk (at least for this week).

Forbath, who has not kicked in a game since last season and has practiced just once with New England, currently is chatting on the field with punter Jake Bailey and a couple of Houston specialists.

In other pregame news, linebacker Kyle Van Noy arrived at NRG Stadium wearing an anti-germ face mask. Van Noy missed practice Friday and is one of nine Patriots players listed as questionable with an illness.

4 p.m.: The Ravens just knocked off the 49ers in a thriller, meaning the Patriots will need a win tonight to maintain their grip on the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

Noon ET: Greetings from Houston, where the New England Patriots will look to extend their winning streak over Texans to nine games tonight on “Sunday Night Football.”

The following 15 players are listed as questionable for the Patriots, who battled injuries and a nasty flu bug this week. All 15 made the trip to Houston, with the sick players reportedly taking a separate plane:

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, Knee
OT Marcus Cannon, Illness
S Patrick Chung, Illness/Heel/Chest
LB Jamie Collins, Illness
WR Phillip Dorsett, Concussion
S Nate Ebner, Ankle/Back
WR Julian Edelman, Shoulder
OL Jermaine Eluemunor, Illness
CB Stephon Gilmore, Illness
LB Dont’a Hightower, Illness
WR Mohamed Sanu, Ankle
WR Matthew Slater, Hamstring
LB Kyle Van Noy, Illness
CB Joejuan Williams, Illness
OT Isaiah Wynn, Illness

Cornerback Jason McCourty (groin), defensive lineman Byron Cowart (head) and tight end Ryan Izzo (illness) have been ruled out. Sanu and Dorsett reportedly are expected to play after missing last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys, giving Tom Brady a full complement of wide receivers.

The 10-1 Patriots can clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers or Oakland Raiders. The 7-4 Texans, who rebounded from a humiliating 41-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with a win over the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday, enter today as the No. 3 seed in the AFC behind the Patriots and Ravens.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien never has beaten his old team, going 0-5 against the Patriots during his head-coaching tenure.

Kickoff for tonight’s matchup is set for 8:20 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium. Keep it locked here throughout the day for full pregame coverage.

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Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images

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