The Patriots defeated the Texans, 27-20, at Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Here’s what some of the players and coaches had to say after the game:
“I’m glad we have them.” — Bill Belichick on Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady
Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were up to their old tricks.
The duo connected for its 76th-ever touchdown — the second-most between a quarterback and a tight end in league history — early in the first quarter. Brady hit Gronkowski with a 21-yard pass to put the Patriots on the board first.
“That’s two great players,” coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “Both have a lot of skill. Both [are] very good at what they do. They don’t need a lot to complete passes. We see that every day in training camp and in practice. They’re both really good. Rob’s hard to cover, and Tom can put the ball where only Rob can get it and Rob can get a lot of those. I’m glad we have them. They’re both great players.”
Gronkowski was Brady’s most targeted pass catcher of the game and finished with seven receptions for 123 yards. The only tight end in NFL history with more 100-yard games than Gronkowski is Tony Gonzalez.
“He is a machine,” running back Rex Burkhead said.
“I literally thought first thing, ‘What is Tom thinking?'” — Rob Gronkowski on Tom Brady’s decision to pass to him late in the second quarter
With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Brady threw a pass up the middle intended for Gronkowski. Defended by Texans cornerback Aaron Colvin and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Gronkowski appeared to make the catch in double coverage for a 28-yard gain. Gronkowski signaled for the first down — which the ruling on the field confirmed — but several Texans gestured the pass was incomplete.
Given the tight coverage, Gronkowski was surprised Brady targetted him.
“When I was running up the seam, I had two guys on me,” Gronkowski said. “When I saw the ball in the air, I literally thought first thing, ‘What is Tom thinking?’ When that ball was in the air, I had a guy grabbing me. I was like, ‘I’ve just got to go for it. I can’t let them make a play on it.’ So I just went up for it [and] made the catch.”
Gronkowski used his helmet to help bring in the ball, but whether he maintained possession was unclear. Brady and Patriots quickly hustled up the field to start the next play, Houston did not use one of their three remaining timeouts, and the catch was subsequently not reviewed. New England ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive and entered halftime with a 21-6 lead.
“I did make the catch,” Gronkowski said. “I don’t know how. When I went to the ground, I had it stable in my hand, so it was definitely a catch, but Tom went up to the line really quick just to make sure. We got the play off, which was nice.”
“I made a stupid play.” — Riley McCarron on his muffed punt
Wide receiver Riley McCarron took ownership for a botched fourth-quarter play.
With a 14-point lead and four and a half minutes remaining in the contest, New England had a chance to seal Houston’s fate. After the Texans went three-and-out, however, McCarron was unable to successfully field Trevor Daniel’s punt, as the ball bounced off his face mask and onto the ground. Former Patriots cornerback Johnson Bademosi recovered the ball for the Texans at New England’s 16-yard line.
“I made a stupid play,” said McCarron, who made his NFL debut Sunday. “I should have handled the ball; it is as simple as that. I did not make the decision on a fair catch, obviously, but I know the one I should have made now.”
Houston capitalized on McCarron’s fumble with a two-and-a-half-minute, six-play drive that ended in a touchdown. The score gave the Texans life, pulling them within one possession with just over two minutes left to play. Unable to run out the clock, the Patriots were forced to punt. The Texans had 43 seconds to tie things up, but quarterback Deshaun Watson’s Hail Mary hurl fell short of the end zone.
“It obviously is not a good feeling, but credit to the defense — they did a great job,” McCarron said of his mistake. “I have great support from the teammates. They told me to just keep my head up.”
Running back — and new team captain — James White said he went up to McCarron and tapped him on the head as a gesture of encouragement. White said he told him, “The play is over. We’ll move on from it. The defense is going to try and get a stop and we might need you that next drive, so you can’t be down in the dumps.”
“We’ve all made mistakes in some key moments,” White said. “You’ve definitely got to try and lift him up and keep his spirits because we still had a football game to play.”
“I think he went out there and showed it today that he can be a good player for us.” — James White on Phillip Dorsett
Phillip Dorsett was the star of the Patriots’ depleted wide receiving corps Sunday.
Dorsett — who was traded to New England last September — had his most productive game as a Patriot, catching seven passes on seven targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. When the Patriots ran their two-minute offense to close out the first half, Brady threw three of his four passes to Dorsett.
“He works extremely hard,” White said of Dorsett. “He got here last year after training camp, so a lot was kind of thrown at him fast. I think he got better as the year went on. I think he took the challenge this offseason to learn the offense as best he can and just be in the right spots and win in man [coverage]. I think he went out there and showed it today that he can be a good player for us.”
Dorsett said both his confidence and his connection with Brady have grown since he first arrived in New England.
“I would say the confidence comes with the hard work,” Dorsett said. “Just getting into a groove, knowing what you have to do, and knowing what to do versus man and versus zone. Also not having to worry about what you have to do when you get out of the huddle. My confidence is a big boost.”
Brady agreed that his chemistry with Dorsett is improving.
“I think if you’re out there, I trust you, the coaches trust you, the team trusts you,” he said. “That’s why we’re putting you out there. Guys that usually we don’t trust don’t get much opportunity out there. Phillip did a great job with his opportunity.”