If there's one saving grace for New England now, it's that the Patriots have played some without Wes Welker already this year.
The bad news: Those games don't exactly provide encouragement. In Week 2 against the Jets, the lack of Welker -- and ability of Darrelle Revis to cover Randy Moss -- was enough to allow New York to dial up pressure, and keep the Patriots out of the end zone. The next week, against Atlanta, the Patriots were able to keep a team with a vanilla pass rush and very pedestrian corners at bay, and rode Randy Moss and their running game to victory.
How Baltimore attacks the Patriots, really, no one knows right now. But what can be said is how the Texans defense went after them in the second half was markedly different than how they handled the Patriots before the break.
"We had to double two guys, and now you can focus on doubling one guy, and that was Randy," Texans corner Dunta Robinson said. "We could breathe a little bit easier, knowing we had to take one guy out of the offense instead of two guys. Yeah, some things did change.
"Now we can pressure Tom a little bit more. Now we can do some things that maybe they couldnít do with both those guys on the field. The game plan definitely changed when he went down. ... It pretty much happened at the half. Anytime you lose a player like that, I mean, wow, youíre taking away a lot of your offense. Itís like us losing Andre. Definitely a big blow."
In the second half, Tom Brady was held to 56 yards on 8-of-13 passing, took one sack, threw a pick, and was knocked around a lot more than he had been before the break. Randy Moss, likewise, was only thrown to once in the second half, catching one ball for 12 yards, a sign of the Texans' ability to hone in on the Patriots superstar.
Robinson was charged with following Moss around all day. There were times he had help, and others when he didn't. But it got much easier to be creative when Welker wasn't in there.
"The guy, heís been in the game since í98 and heís still getting it done at a very high level," Robinson said of Moss. "We definitely knew he was gonna be a problem, and he was. ... You donít have help every single play, but there are definitely some times when the safety needs to help. Itís a hard job to play cornerback. Youíre definitely gonna need some help at times."
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