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The scene is set for Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO  –  At least the weather is expected to be crystal clear as the Patriots host the Texans at Gillette Stadium to open Week 3 of the NFL season.

Clear skies and a game-time temperature around 70 is expected for the 8:25 p.m. kickoff. It could be chilly by the end of the game as the forecast is calling for temperatures to fall into the low 60s by the fourth quarter.

It will be somewhat humid as the forecast is calling for a relative humidity of 60 percent. But there is no precipitation in the forecast and just a slight breeze out of the south at 5 MPH.

While the weather will be clear the forecast as to who will be the starting quarterback and who will be the backup has been downright cloudy ever since Jimmy Garoppolo’s right shoulder was driven into the Gillette Stadium turf by Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso with five minutes left in the first half Sunday.

Making things murkier is the fact the Patriots could be starting a rookie quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who was 6-for-9 for 92 yards in his relief effort, marking his NFL debut out of North Carolina State.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the sideline. Ian Rapoport and Courtney Fallon of NFL Network report that Garoppolo is expected to dress and serve as the backup. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports it’s more likely and expected that Garoppolo won’t suit up at all and Julian Edelman will serve as the emergency backup if something happens with Brissett. Garoppolo was officially listed as doubtful on Wednesday’s final injury report.

Either way, as it appears now, Brissett will indeed make his first NFL start.

Another big storyline is expected to be Rob Gronkowski. Rapoport also reports that “there’s a real chance” Gronkowski makes his 2016 season debut after missing the first two games with a strained hamstring. Gronkowski was officially listed as one of six Patriots as questionable heading into tonight’s game.

Ryan Hannable has 10 fun facts about tonight’s Thursday night game which features the “Color Rush” uniforms both teams will be wearing. Chris Price has the scouting report.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Friday is the 15-year anniversary of the day the Patriots franchise changed forever.

Tom Brady might not be where he is today without Mo Lewis' hit on Drew Bledsoe. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady might not be where he is today without Mo Lewis’ hit on Drew Bledsoe. (Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports)

Friday is the 15-year anniversary of the day the Patriots franchise changed forever.

After missing a week of games because of the events that happened on Sept 11., the Patriots hosted the Jets at Foxboro Stadium and the Jets led 10-3 with just 5:10 remaining and it was third-and-10 at the New England 19-yard line.

Drew Bledsoe scrambled to his right out of the pocket and picked up eight yards before heading out of bounds and linebacker Mo Lewis drilled him in the left side knocking him out of bounds and out of the game.

“I didn’t really see Lewis, because all I saw was the first down marker,” Bledsoe recalled to NFL.com’s (formerly of Sports Illustrated) Don Banks this week. “It was third down and while I was running toward the sideline, I couldn’t just go out of bounds short of the first down marker, not in that situation late in the game. So I tried to cut back inside and see if I could get the first down, and when I did that, I gave up my body to take the hit.

“People forget that after I got hit, I went back in the game the next series. And the reason why I came out of the game after that series was because I had a concussion as well, and I didn’t know which way was right and which way was left, and didn’t know my two-minute plays, which we had run for two years. I didn’t know I was seriously hurt until after the game.”

Backup quarterback Tom Brady entered the game after Bledsoe played the next possession and tried to tie the game, but after getting three first downs the drive fell short and the Jets won the game.

“Everything happened so fast and I think I was just reacting to the moment,” Brady said. “I felt prepared, and really it felt like football. Like something I had done many times before. I was bummed we lost, because we had some chances at the end. But it wasn’t until mid-week when we knew the extent of what Drew was dealing with. Again, I was just taking things as they came, and I tried to make the best of the situation, as it was tough for everybody, with somebody I respected so much like I did Drew.”

The seriousness of the hit didn’t come right away for Bledsoe — it was once he got back into the locker room.

“After the game, I was headed into the locker room with Ron O’Neil, our trainer, and he said “Why don’t you come with me, Bub.” He called everybody Bub,” Bledsoe recalled. “And I said, no I’m going to go in for team prayer, and then I’ll come see you. And he goes, “Nah, I think you need to come with me, now.” So we went in and Bert Zarins, our team doctor is there. He said the thing that really tipped him off that something was really wrong is that normally when you have a concussion, your heart rate starts to slow down pretty quickly. And instead of my heart rate slowing down, mine started to climb pretty dramatically. So that’s when he knew we were dealing with something that was more serious.

“So they put me in the ambulance and I really don’t remember much of that drive in. But my brother, Adam, got in the ambulance with me, and they couldn’t give me anything for pain because I’m allergic to morphine.

“I don’t remember this, but my brother said as we were driving and were just approaching the outskirts of Boston, I just went lights out. I just passed out, just from lack of blood. And he thinks I’m dying and he’s screaming at the ambulance drivers to get there, get there, and the next thing I know I wake up in the hospital, with a tube in my chest that was pumping blood out of my chest, and another tube putting it back in.

“I don’t think I really knew how serious everything was for a couple days afterward, but yeah if our trainer hadn’t intervened — because I just wanted to go home — and if our team doctor hadn’t sent me to the hospital, things could have been really different.

The Patriots went 11-3 with Brady at quarterback the remainder of the regular season and made it to the AFC championship game where they upset the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Bledsoe got into the game in the second half as Brady suffered an ankle injury.

While Brady would go on to play in the Super Bowl, it meant something to Bledsoe to be able to contribute.

“It did feel good to come back and play in that AFC championship game,” he said. “It did make the whole thing feel a bit better, to at least get back on the field during that run. The only hard part was that I tell people it was like giving a starving man a cracker. You just get a little taste of it, and then I had to go back on the sideline for the Super Bowl.

“But the thing that people don’t realize about that season — when I got to training camp and stepped into the huddle for the first time, I really thought we had a shot. For the simple reason being we had an offensive line that was going to be outstanding. The thing I really remember distinctly about coming into that AFC championship game was the first couple throws I made, I threw the ball and then I stood there and watched the ball get completed and nobody touched me.

“I just remember thinking, ‘OK, this is pretty cool. Chuck the ball, watch it get caught and you don’t get hit.’ So that O-line group really had come together and that’s why I believed in training camp that we really had a shot, and that ultimately ended up being the case.”

15 years later, the Patriots franchise has completely changed as the playing time allowed Brady to debut and now become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.

Who knows where Brady would have ended up if Bledsoe didn’t get hurt on that September day.

“Tom is a guy that always had that amazing work ethic and is a natural leader, but I don’t think anybody outside of Tom himself had the impression he was going to ultimately be a long-term starter in the NFL, let alone be a guy considered one of the all-time best,” Bledsoe said. “I felt like he was going to be a guy who was going to be around the league for a long time, and may get a chance to start for somebody somewhere. But ultimately he ended up having the opportunity to play for the best organization in football, and he as he grew into it and became a lynchpin for that organization.

“But if I hadn’t gotten hurt, maybe that doesn’t happen. Maybe he ends up with another organization, and winds up helping somebody else out.”

To read the complete Banks story, click here.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Per Sarah Wroblewski of Fox 25, it should be a warm and dry night for Thursday’s Texans-Patriots contest at Gillette Stadium.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

It’s game-day and there’s still some clarity on Jimmy Garoppolo’s status.

Jimmy Garoppolo reportedly will be the team's backup Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jimmy Garoppolo reportedly will be the team’s backup Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It’s game-day and it appears there’s finally some clarity on Jimmy Garoppolo’s status.

The quarterback reportedly suffered a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder in Sunday’s win over the Dolphins. Jacoby Brissett closed out the game and over the last few days it’s been a question of will Garoppolo be able to play Thursday night against the Texans?

Garoppolo was listed as a non-participant in Monday’s hypothetical practice and then was limited Tuesday and Wednesday. He was officially listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report Wednesday.

Although it never appeared likely he would start the game, the next question was would he be able to back up Brissett?

The team reportedly had two quarterbacks in early in the week for workouts, but never signed one. Then, it was reported the team was giving Julian Edelman extensive work as the team’s backup quarterback, which could have been a sign of Garoppolo not even be able to dress for the game.

But on Thursday morning, NFL Media’s Courtney Fallon reported the team plans on Brissett starting the game and having Garoppolo dress as the team’s backup.

Also, it was learned Garoppolo is dealing with a grade two AC joint sprain, according to CSNNE’s Tom E. Curran. The typical recovery time for a grade two sprain is two-four weeks.

What this all means is Garoppolo could handle playing in limited fashion if something were to happen to Brissett and he could potentially be healthy enough to play in Week 4 against the Bills, his last chance to play before Tom Brady returns in Week 5.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
LeGarrette Blount should get a lot of work Thursday. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount should get a lot of work Thursday. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Here’s what you have to know when it comes to Thursday’s Texans-Patriots contest at Gillette Stadium:

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

As was the case in last weeks’ win over the Dolphins, New England will lean on LeGarrette Blount (51 carries for 193 yards — fourth best in the AFC — for 3.8 yards per carry and a pair of touchdowns) for the bulk of the between-the-tackles production. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Blount isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s easy to get frustrated with a guy who will hit the line and not go anywhere half the time. But the payoff comes later on when he is able to bulldoze a tired opposing defense. He’s a closer, and gets high-value yards late in games when he’s tasked with leading a four-minute offense. Given the uncertainty at quarterback, it’s anyones guess how the Patriots are going operate on offense Thursday night. But if we operate with the presumption that it’s going to be Jacoby Brissett under center, that will mean another opportunity for Blount.

On the other side of the ball, the Houston run defense has been up-and-down the first two games, but is probably the more vulnerable of the two when you stack it against the Texans pass defense. The Texans held Chicago to 73 rushing yards in a Week 1 win, but the Chiefs gashed them for 112 yards on just 19 carries (5.9 yards per attempt) this past Sunday. Overall, Houston is 12th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 96 yards per game. At the same time, the Teans have yielded 4.9 yards per carry, 29th in the league. Only four teams have run less against the Texans (opponents have just 39 rushing attempts through two games), but the numbers suggest that when they do, there are yards to be had. Ultimately, based on previous games (which is a bit of a crapshoot anyway because there’s so much uncertainty at quarterback), if the Patriots are able to hit 30 carries and 105-plus yards, they should come out of this one a winner.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

There’s so much uncertainty here, I’m not exactly sure where to begin. Is it going to be Garoppolo, Brissett or Julian Edelman? There’s not much that would surprise us at this point. Let’s assume it’ll be Brissett for the bulk of the game, as that scenario probably makes the most sense. Don’t look for anything crazy — that backside throw to Martellus Bennett that the tight end stiffarmed into a big gain is probably going to be as nuts as it gets. Short dump-offs to James White, Danny Amendola and Edelman are probably the move, with plenty of underneath stuff at the second level as the Patriots try and take advantage of an occasionally vulnerable middle of the field with some crossing routes. But if Brissett ends up with more than 30 pass attempts in this one, I’d say something has gone horribly wrong for New England.

You have to take into account who it has faced, but the Houston pass defense has been pretty impressive out of the gate. The Texans defense is first in the NFL in sacks (nine), third in third-down percentage (26) and total passing yards allowed per game (179), and fifth in opposing passer rating (71.7). While sacks aren’t everything, a sizable portion of those stats coming from their ability to get pressure from multiple spots, including defensive ends J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney and old pal Vince Wilfork over the nose. Watt had 1.5 sacks in Sunday’s win against the Chiefs and became the second-fastest player in NFL history to get to 75 career sacks. (Only Reggie White did it quicker.) The three-time Defensive Player of the Year, who underwent offseason back surgery, has powered a Houston defense that has gone six straight quarters without allowing a touchdown. Bottom line? This is a good group that is tough to pass against.

WHEN THE TEXANS RUN THE BALL

Houston is reaping the benefits of Miami’s puzzling decision to cut ties with Lamar Miller this offseason. And while Miller hasn’t been an All-Pro through the first two games, he’s given them some offensive balance that has opened things up for Osweiler. And given the fact that Bill O’Brien made his bones as an offensive coordinator with Bill Belichick, it’s probably not a shock to see that Miller has been tasked with doing much of the same sort of thing as Blount. He’s not as big (he’s 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, while Blount is 6-foot-1 and *ahem* 245 pounds), but through the first two games, they’ve achieved similar results after being used in much the same fashion. Through two games, Miller has rushed for 189 yards (fifth-best in the AFC) on 53 carries, or 3.6 yards per carry. Not overwhelming numbers, but certainly comparable to what Blount has done in New England in that he’s been able to loosen up some opposing defenses, get some big yards at important times and chew up some clock. Miller had 45 yards on 12 carries in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, accounting for more than half his total yardage for the afternoon. If the Texans are able to build a second-half lead, he’ll be a big part of their attempts to close this one one. Other than having some issues in the opener with Arizona’s David Johnson, the Patriots have done a good job locking things down against the run over the first two games of the season. New England is ninth in the league, having allowed an average of 81 yards through the the first two contests.

WHEN THE TEXANS PASS THE BALL

Few teams have taken as many deep shots through the first two weeks of the season than the Texans. Brock Osweiler loves airing it out to the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, who form the nucleus of the Houston passing game. Fuller, a rookie out of Notre Dame, loves to try and take the top off the defense: according to Pro Football Focus, 10 of Fuller’s 18 targets have been 20-plus yards downfield, the highest total in the NFL. In addition, the average depth of target has been 23.5 yards, the fourth highest in the NFL and the highest of anyone with 10-plus targets. It’s a group that will test the New England pass defense, and Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan in particular. The phrase “GTFB” could machine appearance on Thursday night. The Patriots pass defense stumbled a bit in the second half against the Dolphins, but big passing yardage isn’t always a recipe for success against New England.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This is a match of two of the better kickers in the league. Houston’s Nick Novak hit four field goals in last week’s 19-12 win over the Chiefs, and has already connected on 7-of-8 field goals this year. That’s after going 18-for-21 last season. Meanwhile, Stephen Gostkowski missed a key field-goal opportunity late against Miami, but is still 4-for-5 on field goals, 6-for-6 on extra points, and was good enough in the opener against the Cardinals to be named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. As for the rest of the Texans, punter Shane Lechler is in the top half of the league with his 49.2 average and 38.9 net, while rookie Tyler Ervin has handled the kick and punt return duties for the first two games. The first-year speedster out of San Jose State has averaged 22.4 yards per kick return (five chances) and 5.9 yards per punt return (seven chances). For New England, punter Ryan Allen has bene uncharacteristically ragged through the first two contests of the year with a 36.2 average (31st in the league) and a 34.8 net (30th). Danny Amendola has been good when it comes to punt returns (a 10.3 average on his four chances), while Cyrus Jones and Matt Slater have split the kick return duties with one each.

THE PATRIOTS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… they can’t get any sort of offensive traction with whoever comes out as the starting quarterback. The defense also needs to find out what happened in the second half against the Dolphins and make the necessary adjustments.

THE TEXANS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… the Patriots are able to find some sort of successful offensive combination with whatever quarterback rolls out there, and New England is able to get short fields thanks to turnovers and/or good work from their special teams.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5-0 — Per Gil Brandt, quarterbacks who make the first professional start of their careers under Belichick are 5-0. Brissett could join a group that includes Todd Philcox, Eric Zeier, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and Garoppolo.

UNDER THE RADAR PERFORMER: Benardrick McKinney doesn’t get the same pub as some of his high-profile teammates like Watt, Clowney and old pal Vince Wilfork, but it was interesting to hear Belichick go out of his way to talk him up this week as a a second-year linebacker on his way to “becoming one of the better linebackers in the league at a lot of things; the run, the pass, blitzing.” The 6-foot-4, 246-pounder out of Mississippi State has a pair of sacks and 39 tackles in two games. With Brian Cushing on the sidelines because of a knee injury, he’s become one of the most important parts of the Houston defense, especially with the Patriots’ offensive focus likely falling on Blount. It’ll be interesting to see how the 23-year-old responds to the challenge.

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I’m a football coach. I’m not a doctor. The medical staff is the medical staff. I coach the team; the medical people handle the injuries. They don’t call plays; I don’t do surgery. We’ve got a great deal there. It works out good.” —Belichick, asked about balancing injury status and personnel moves, 9/20/16

PREDICTION: It’s been a weird week all around, and so it’ll be no surprise if it’s a weird and sloppy game. The quality of Thursday night games have almost always been crappy, and given the quick turnaround and the fact that it’s so early in the season, this won’t be one of the prettier contests of the year. Provided the Patriots go with Brissett under center, their goal will be to keep the game as small and as manageable as possible. Don’t look for them to open things up and try and get in a shootout with the Texans. New England needs to focus on getting quality yards from Blount in the early going so second and third down can stay manageable, minimize potential turnovers from Brissett, win the time of possession battle and stay on the field for extended stretches with runs and short, quick passes. On defense, they need to guard against the deep ball, and make sure Miller doesn’t get started. If they can play good, complementary football from the jump, they’ll be able to win this thing and move to 3-0. If this game was in Houston, I’d probably be inclined to take the Texans. But instead, I’ll take the Patriots. My take: New England 16, Houston 13.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Jacoby Brissett will likely start his first NFL game Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Jacoby Brissett will likely start his first NFL game Thursday night. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

It’s been an interesting few days this week with the uncertainty of the Patriots quarterback situation as after Jimmy Garoppolo injured his right shoulder Sunday against the Dolphins, Jacoby Brissett will make his first career start against the Texans. It will be a homecoming game of sorts for a number of Texans including Vince Wilfork (his first game back at Gillette Stadium), Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel.

Here are 10 things you should know heading into the matchup:

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these from this week’€™€™€™€™€™s media guide.)

1. With a win, Bill Belichick will tie Curly Lambeau for the fourth-most regular-season wins in NFL history with 226. Don Shula has the all-time record with 328.

2. Since J.J. Watt was drafted in 2011, rookie quarterbacks are 3-11 against the Texans. The wins have come from Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Matt McGloin.

3. The Patriots have won 21 straight regular season home games against non-division AFC opponents. The last time they lost to a non-division AFC team was against Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2008.

4. As of Thursday morning, the Patriots are one-point underdogs to the Texans. Since 2002, the Patriots have been home underdogs a total of five times and have won four of these games straight up.

5. Watt has faced the Patriots in three regular season games and hasn’t recorded a sack. The Patriots are the only team Watt has played at least three regular season games against and hasn’t yet to record a sack against them.

6. New England has won 82 straight regular season home games when leading at halftime in the regular season. The last time it lost a regular season home game when leading at halftime was Dec. 24, 2000 against the Dolphins.

7. The Patriots have won six straight games on Thursdays. The last Thursday game they lost was Nov. 13, 2008 in overtime against the Jets.

8. In three games against the Texans at home (includes one playoff game), the Patriots are 3-0 and have outscored them 123-49. They’ve scored at least 40 points in all three games.

9. Belichick is 7-4 against his former Patriots assistants as head coaches.

10. The magic number is 23. Including the playoffs, New England is 166-14 when scoring 23 or more points under Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Although Jimmy Garoppolo may not play Thursday night, another key Patriots player could make his debut.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

Although Jimmy Garoppolo may not play Thursday night, another key Patriots player could make his debut.

According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Rob Gronkowski will be a game-time decision, but adds “there’s a real chance he makes his debut.”

Gronkowksi has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury suffered Aug. 15 in a joint practice with the Bears. Given the Patriots have 10 days after Thursday before their Week 4 matchup with the Bills, this seems like a good chance for the tight end to make his debut.

If he plays, he likely will see a lot of targets with third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett looking for the big tight end.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable