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Tale of the Tape: Patriots-Texans

Posted by Albert Breer  January 7, 2010 04:34 PM

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After struggling on Houston’s first possession, Burgess fought off blocks on consecutive plays to make tackles the second time the Texans got the ball, to help force a three-and-out. There was also a 1-yard Arian Foster run in the second quarter, where Burgess stymied the much larger Eric Winston, tossed him aside and made the play.

Not trying to make the guy out to be Albert Haynesworth here, but with the team having depth problems on the line, it’s worth noting that Burgess was put in a difficult position for someone of his size and held up fairly well. It probably won’t happen again, since Ty Warren will be back, but he was a valuable stopgap there.

LOSING THEIR EDGE: The Patriots continue to have problems setting the edge defensively, and that’s what’s allowing opponents to kill them on the perimeter in the running game.

Tully Banta-Cain’s aggression pays off in a lot of spots, but in other cases, he gets caught coming too hard or sealed off to the inside. Burgess lost contain in a similar fashion on the first drive of the game.

This has been an underrated area of weakness all year. With Ray Rice coming to town, it needs to get cleaned up, because while he’s getting better as an inside runner, he’s always been outstanding on the edges of the field.

FINDING THE GOAT: Jonathan Wilhite’s problems have been well-documented, so maybe I’m not covering new ground here. But they were particularly obvious on Sunday.

The most glaring example was on Andre Johnson’s 15-yard, fourth-quarter conversion of a third-and-12. On the play, Jacoby Jones motion inside to a stack formation, and he and Johnson crossed at the snap, with Johnson going outside and Jones going inside. It was designed to get Wilhite and Shawn Springs to switch, and that got Johnson on Wilhite.

It seemed like a big part of why the Texans went almost exclusively with three-receiver sets in the fourth quarter was to get Wilhite, the third corner, on the field. Time and again, Matt Schaub looked for him, found him, and threw at him. On Jones’s touchdown, once the receiver made a double-move near the goal-line on the timing route, Schaub released the ball, and Wilhite had no shot at making a play.

I’ve seen good things from Wilhite before. At this point, though, continuing to roll him out there might be hurting the team and the player’s own confidence.

ON THE LINE: Wilfork and Warren and Co. are going to need to be outstanding on Sunday, because it really is hard to imagine the Ravens' running game being slowed otherwise.

Perfect example: Texans ball, first and 10, Patriots 24-yard line, 6:44 left. Mike Wright fights off the block of Chris White, shoves him aside of Foster cuts, and drops the back for a 2-yard loss. Had Wright not made that play? Gary Guyton was lying flat on his back 10 yards downfield, pancaked by Kasey Studdard. Jerod Mayo was mired in traffic.

Guyton continues to struggle mightily in the running game – something Cam Cameron is sure to find, and exploit. And Mayo still seems to lack the explosion that he made his money on as a rookie. Add that to the problems on the edge, and you’re going to need a herculian effort from your three down linemen on Sunday.

THIS AND THAT: The offensive line’s play, all things considered with the amount of rotating going on, was pretty good. There was the one sack where Dan Koppen got beat on a stunt by Mario Williams. But the other looked like a case of Brian Hoyer misidentifying the rush presnap. And though Brady got knocked around, a big part of that was because the extra heat the Texans were sending. … Clearly, the Patriots were trying to re-establish their spread offense – sans Welker – in third and fourth quarter, coming out so consistently in three-receiver looks. The bad news is that those screens to Edelman were really the only way they could find to move the ball consistently. … Darius Butler continues to show potential, but show growing pains. The good: His instinctive pick six in the third quarter. The bad: His overall performance against the run, contibuting to some of the big chunks eaten up by the Texans on the second level.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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