The New England Patriots opened their season with a 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Tom Brady carved up the Texans secondary to the tune of 277 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on 26-of-39 passing, while his opposite number had a much more difficult time in Week 1. Deshaun Watson finished 17-of-35 for 176 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Poor Pass Protection Threatens to Derail Deshaun Watson's Comeback
Things didn't get much better Sunday. New England sacked Watson three times, which doesn't do justice to how often the Patriots pressured him in the pocket.
Throughout the day, the Texans' pass protection was noticeably lacking.
With Watson coming off a season-ending ACL injury, a porous offensive line is the last thing the Texans need. Houston went 1-8 to close out last year after Watson went down, so losing him for an extended stretch again would be a massive blow.
Beyond heightening the risk of another injury to Watson, it will be hard for the passing game to find a flow if he doesn't have much time to throw.
To help remedy the problem in the offseason, Houston signed Seantrel Henderson to a one-year, $4 million deal. According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, Henderson broke a bone in his ankle during the defeat, and it's unknown how long the injury could keep him out.
Houston is one week into the season and needs to find a new starting right tackle.
Although the Texans made this a game in the second half, Henderson's injury means the offensive line remains a major concern going forward.
Phillip Dorsett Emerges As Tom Brady's Breakout Weapon After Roster Turnover
The Patriots lost Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Brandin Cooks in the offseason, while Julian Edelman is serving a four-game suspension. Somebody needs to step up to replace all of that lost production, and Phillip Dorsett appears to be headed for a breakout 2018.
Dorsett finished with seven receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown, with his catches a personal best. His touchdown grab in the second quarter helped give the Patriots a 21-6 lead heading into halftime.
His big day was undoubtedly a big talking point coming out of the game.
A 2015 first-round draft pick, Dorsett had 947 receiving yards through his first three seasons. The fact the Indianapolis Colts moved on from him after just two years said everything about how underwhelming his tenure with the team was.
Dorsett wouldn't be the first receiver to revitalize his career after a move to New England, though, and playing with one of the most legendary quarterbacks in NFL history makes life a little easier.
Fans know what to expect from Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who finished as New England's leading receiver (seven receptions, 123 yards and a touchdown). Those two are going to deliver almost every week.
Especially until Edelman is eligible to come back, Dorsett is the kind of skill player the Patriots need to help them remain one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses.
Texans Need More from J.J. Watt after Return from Injury
In his first game back from a tibial plateau fracture, J.J. Watt had three tackles. After starting slowly, his influence on the game grew in the second half.
Houston got little from Watt in the first half, with his first tackle coming in the third quarter. Without Watt providing pressure off the edge, Brady was able to pick apart Houston's secondary. All three of his touchdowns and more than half of his passing total (154 yards) came before halftime.
That illustrates Watt's importance to the defense.
Houston's front seven isn't a one-man show. Jadeveon Clowney is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowls, and Whitney Mercilus has 38.5 career sacks in 83 appearances. Still, Watt is the tone-setter for the Texans defense.
Considering he played just eight games between 2016 and 2017, some rust should be expected for Watt. The big question for Houston is whether his slow start is more of a blip or part of a larger decline accelerated by his recent injury problems.
The Patriots hit the road for a rematch of the 2018 AFC Championship Game in Week 2 when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Texans have a divisional matchup with the Tennessee Titans on the docket.