Tale of the Tape: Patriots-Texans

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More from Sunday’s disaster …

ROLLING 11: Seems like all week momentum has been building around here behind the idea that Julian Edelman is going to present a reasonable facsimile to Wes Welker. And the kid’s flashed some talent, no doubt. But if you really watch what he did last Sunday, you know not to go overboard.

Edelman’s best work came on a 9-play, 71-yard drive, during which he registered four catches for 37 yards. Good? Sure. Groundbreaking? No. All four of those catches came on screens, designed to make the aggressively moving-upfield Texans pay. The next time the Patriots ran a screen, late in the fourth quarter, Houston was ready for it, and dropped Sammy Morris for a 4-yard loss.

No one’s trying to denigrate Edelman’s potential, and he showed burst and vision on those screen plays. It’s just that Welker’s greatest value is in the trust he and Brady share, and the work he does on option routes, in scramble situations, and as the quarterback’s hot read against the blitz. Edelman still has a lot to prove in that regard.

ON THE MOVE: An underrated aspect of what Derrick Burgess has done for the Patriots of late is his work as a 5-technique end in the 3-4. Severely undersized at the position, the Texans clearly targeted Burgess in the running game, and he actually held up fairly well.


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.

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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.

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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.

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