Things to consider while wondering if this might be the right time to make up some silicone bracelets that say PRAY4ROGER:
— This is why we do it. New Englanders’ love for Bill Belichick baffles all the haters, anti-Patriots jihadists, Spygate alarmists, media bomb tossers, Deflategate Truthers, press conference victims of passive/aggresiveness and other assorted zealots obsessed with headsets, bugged locker rooms and Nazis behind the woodpile. But games like this are exactly why every Patriots fan would jump in front of a speeding T bus if it would save the life of His Hoodedness.
— The Patriots just went into a game with a third-string rookie quarterback — the “Designated Survivor” now made Commander in Chief of the offense — with no backup QB on the roster for the first time in NFL history, with Rob Gronkowski as healthy as Hillary Clinton, and put a 27-0 beatdown on a 2-0 team with elite players on both sides of the ball. They did it because the man at the top doesn’t panic, doesn’t waver in the moment. He keeps his focus, evaluates the situation calmly and finds a way to thrive. The same sportswriter fossils who bitch and snipe at his every move have nothing but contempt for the way their audience embraces him. But this game was as good an example as you’ll ever find as to why we do it.
— But that won’t stop the great unwashed media hordes from trying to play this down like it’s no big thing. They’ll spin it like the Texans are “tomato cans” along the lines of the 2008 Detroit Lions. But they know what we all know. That the last time the leader of a group pulled off something this impressive, loaves were turned into fishes and water into wine.
— Of course, Patriots wins are always more enjoyable when there’s some good, solid revenge involved. It was 10-0 in the second quarter when CBS cut away to Bob McNair, the lucky spermer Texans owner who said during Deflategate, “J.J. Watt wouldn’t have destroyed his phone.” So knowing he sat their while the Pats dismantled his bastion-of-integrity team made it even better. Like it was a good round of hate sex.
— Just on an emotional level, it means everything to me that while TV is desecrating my beloved ’80s icons like “MacGyver” and “Lethal Weapon,” Bill Belichick is successfully rebooting my other beloved ’80s icons, like the power run game, the quarterback option, the jet sweep, the end around and the naked bootleg.
— You cannot say enough good things about the offensive line. Nate Solder continues to be a force field on the outside. Like I said on the air yesterday, save for Logan Mankins, the Patriots haven’t had a guard better at getting out in front on a pull block than Joe Thuney. Marcus Cannon got the better of Watt, Whitney Mercilus and occasionally Jadaveon Clowney. They might as well put Dante Scarnecchia’s “Employee of the Month” picture up now and give him the restaurant gift card that comes with it.
— Case in point, the Jacoby Brissett touchdown run. The Pats lined up in gun trips left with LeGarrette Blount in the sort of H-back spot behind Cannon. Before the snap, Houston adjusted out of a 3-4 to a 4-3, with Benardrick McKinney coming down to left outside linebacker with Mercilus sliding inside. Shaq Mason threw a great pull block on McKinney, Cannon sealed off Mercilus and Watt came in through the back side of the play to catch nothing but air. Meanwhile, Malcolm Mitchell ran Jonathan Joseph off all the way to the end zone before he even had to block him. Which he did. Brilliant play call against that defensive front and perfect execution.
— Then there was Blount’s touchdown for the final score. The Pats were in 21 personnel, I-formation and strong side right. Solder kicked the end Brennan Scarlett out past the beer stand and Thuney put saw horses in front of Clowney. On the second level, Julian Edelman got all up in Quintin Demps’ grillmix and James Develin took out Andre Hal. That left one man to beat, and Blount slipped through McKinney for the demoralizing touchdown.
— Now we just have to wait for the Fun Police in the league office to decide Blount posing with the Militia constitutes excessive celebration, a choreographed dance, use of a prop or some type of microaggression and they start flagging it.
— I confess to hating myself for going this long without even mentioning the defense the morning after a shutout. But I’ll find it in my heart to forgive me, since there’s just so much win here and so little time.
— The Patriots’ game plan seemed to want to take away the home run ball and defy the Texans to beat them with intermediate routes and sustained drives. God knows those words strike terror into the heart of any Patriots fan who remembers the “Bend but don’t break” 2012 team and all those times its marketing slogan should have been “Where mediocre quarterbacks’ incentive bonuses happen.” Or hell, who even remember the second half last week. But this game, it was different.
— Yes, the Pats goaded the Texans into going for the checkdowns and 12- to 15-yard throws. The difference is, this time they didn’t concede them. The Pats corners played tight trail technique, fought for virtually every throw and made Houston work for the ones they didn’t stop.
— Logan Ryan is getting every teams’ No. 1 receiver for the most part, and Thursday night the file in the dossier he was handed was marked “DeAndre Hopkins.” Ryan held him in check with sweet plays like the pass defensed on first-and-10 in the second. That set of downs ended when Pat Chung broke up Ryan Griffin to force a punt.
— But the best pass defensed the whole night was Malcolm Butler fighting through a pick to break up Will Fuller. The play was like watching a battle being reenacted by a bunch of costumed history buffs. (Looking at you, Militia.) The Battle of Malcolm, go! Only this time Butler was playing himself. When will these offensive coordinators ever learn.
— I’d forgotten how mesmerizing Bill O’Brien’s chin dimple is. I love hearing the guy speak, but every time he does I get lost in that thing. It forms a perfect triangle. And I can’t help but think of Tony Stark’s reconfigured Arc Reactor from “Iron Man 2.”
— The problem with playing base cover-2 like the Pats did here is that it leaves you vulnerable to the run. It’s basic math. The line has eight gaps, and with deep safeties and two corners you’ve left yourself with seven guys to fill them. What they seemed to do really well in this game was have Chung move around the box in the “robber” role. One play in particular stood out where he came off the edge of an eight-man box on first-and-10 and made the tackle for a loss. The rest of the time, my guess is they had one of their big war daddies like Malcom Brown or Alan Branch two-gap. But given the hour of the game and the beer goggles through which I was watching it, I’m just spitballing.
— Jamie Collins was a filthy animal. And I mean that in the good way, not the condescending, wiseassy, Kevin McAllister way. He had another interception, obviously. Made a lot of tackles after the catch as Brock Osweiler was forced to go to his checkdowns. But the best play of all was the third-and-4 when he read the swing pass to Jonathan Grimes, flew in like a rocket-propelled grenade and made the tackle behind the line. I thought he looked completely overmatched last week. I’m glad to be wrong.
— Between Charles James II and Will Fuller V, the Texans lead the NFL in “Most names that sound like ‘Jeopardy’ answers under ‘British Monarchs.’ ”
— You know it’s a great night when you barely notice Phil Simms. Sure he had his Simmsian moments. Like when he tried to make the case the Texans had plenty of time and three timeouts, when they were down 20 points with two timeouts. Then there was Brissett chucking the ball 50 feet over Gronk’s head in the end zone and he said, “I don’t blame the quarterback.” Not to mention the obligatory “We talked abouts” and so on. But not even that empty-headed hayseed could harsh my mellow.
— This week’s Applicable Movie Quote: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” — Elliot Carver, “Tomorrow Never Dies”
— I’ve waited this long to get too deep into Jacoby Brissett because he wasn’t really the story. Which demonstrates the brilliance of Josh McDaniels and the infinite possibilities of the McOffense. The way it can form a symbiotic relationship with the guy running it and go from wide-open spread to old-school power run to gadget plays and everything in between based on his set of skills. But the kid was poised, confident and never anything less than completely in charge. If they swing a deal to get value for Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason, I will have zero problems with having a second-year Brissett as the backup.
— Finally, there’s a great historical allegory to make about a coach having the balls to go into a game with one quarterback, a rookie, on his entire roster. Something no other coach would ever be willing to do. After Alexander the Great kicked Persian ass at the Battle of Issus, Persian king Darius offered him a deal if he’d promise to go away and not conquer the entire empire. One of the generals, Parmenion, said, “If I were Alexander, I would accept what was offered and make a treaty.” To which Alexander replied, “So would I … if I were Parmenion.” Great conquerers dare to do great conquerer things.
Jerry has a book! “From Darkness to Dynasty: The First 40 Years of the New England Patriots” has been called, “The perfect book for any reader who is a diehard Pats fan.” It’s available now online and at bookstores everywhere. Details and scheduled book signings are at JerryThornton.net.