The Patriots’ rushing attack against the Texans’ run defense was, on paper, one factor that played into New England being a two-point favorite entering Sunday’s game at NRG Stadium in Houston.
And while the two areas still played a role, it just wasn’t the way many expected.
The Texans limited the Patriots to just 86 rushing yards on 24 carries (3.6 yards per rush) in Houston’s 27-20 victory. It represents the second-fewest rushing yards recorded by New England this season, as well as the second-fewest rushing yards allowed by Houston.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, for one, was thrilled with how his group performed.
“I mean, obviously, we all know we’ve had our struggles against the run this year so far, and I believe the Patriots came into this game either second or third in overall rushing offense. So, for us to hold them to 86 yards is a huge accomplishment for us,” Watt told reporters during his postgame video conference. “I think our defense deserves a lot of credit for the way everybody played today. Everybody doing their assignment, making the tackles, it was a great all-around game by the guys, and I’m very proud by the way they did that.”
Houston head coach Romeo Crennel explained one key ingredient that went into the Texans’ success.
“Well, I feel you guys all the time — the consistency. Consistency of technique and guys doing their job, doing their job first and then trying to help out,” Crennel told reporters. “A lot of times it comes to toughness and leverage, playing against double teams and not guessing, and so we did that today. And against a good running team — a team who’s at the top of the league as far as the run goes.
“We were able to slow that down, then they started to throw the ball, and, you know, they hadn’t been throwing the ball as well overall because they had been running the ball,” Crennel continued. “And now, you kind of put them out of their element a little bit, particularly when you got J.J. (Watt) coming off the edge and being disruptive the way he was, getting the quarterback off the spot. So, that helped us a lot today.”
For reference, the Patriots entered Week 11 averaging 161 rushing yards per game with 4.8 yards per attempt. Houston, on the other hand, allowed an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per attempt and 167.4 yards per game.
Bill Belichick was asked why Damien Harris, specifically, got fewer touches than he had previously, but the Patriots head coach had no answer to the question. Harris ran for 43 yards on just 11 attempts, which were his fewest since becoming the team’s clear lead back following Week 7.
The Patriots fell to 4-6, while the Texans improved to 3-7.