New England Patriots' Finishing Woes Continue

4 Sport BostonCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2010

HOUSTON - JANUARY 03: New England Patriots medical staff cart off wide receiver Wes Welker after he was injured on a play at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

(Originally posted on 4SportBoston.com )

Sunday’s game was just what the Houston Texans wanted and everything the New England Patriots didn’t.

The Patriots gave up only their second opening drive touchdown of the year when Matt Schaub hooked up with Joel Dreessen for a 25-yard strike on a blown coverage.

It was the start of a trend that would continue all day.

On New England’s first drive, Wes Welker tore his MCL and ACL and is now out the rest of the season. With the injury happening so late in the season, it could easily push his return back well into next year's season.

The Texans came into this game with the mentality that this was the most important game in the franchise's history, as it would give them a possible playoff berth and their first winning season.

The Patriots wanted to win—well, at least Tom Brady did—to try to match their 2008 season record and help decide the three and four spots in the playoffs. New England sat Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren as well as Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk.

Houston and New England traded possessions throughout the first half. On a huge fourth down stop with 4:50 remaining, Shawn Springs locked down Andre Johnson and seemed to create a huge momentum shift going into halftime. But it was instantly erased by a Fred Taylor fumble in the end zone, reminiscent of fellow running back Maroney, resulting in a Texans recovery for a touchdown.

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Taylor was hit as he received the handoff because the Pats' offensive line, again, cannot run block for the life of them. Kris Brown's missed PAT left it at a three-point game.

One bright spot of the first half for New England was the play of backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, putting together a solid drive in the second quarter. He then came back in for the final drive of the game, finishing 8-for-12 with 71 passing yards and an 82.3 quarterback rating. He showed signs of greatness but could not find an open Julian Edelman to keep their hopeful last drive alive.

Schaub and the Texans offense came out and put together a great drive to start their second half, driving 69 yards on nine plays. All was for naught, though, after Darius Butler took advantage of his start for the injured Leigh Bodden and returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown, giving the Patriots a 20-13 lead.

The Texans drove down the field again to no avail after Kris Brown missed another field goal try. In response, New England kept the chains moving and punched it in the end zone with a Taylor run.

But Schaub, being the competitor he is, definitely showed why he is starting to be considered an elite quarterback in the NFL, playing with a partially dislocated shoulder as he continued to get drilled to the ground all day. He connected with Jacoby Jones to bring Houston within seven points with 9:41 to play. Schaub finished the day 24-for-39 with 303 yards, two TDs, and a 92.1 QB rating.

After a three and out by the Texans defense and a 30-yard punt return by Jones, Houston tied the game with a 1-yard run by Arian Foster with 4:43 to play.

In response, Brady looked like he was going to make one of his storybook ending drives, but instead he was intercepted due to pressure by the Texans' line and gave Houston great field position. Four straight run plays later by the second worst rushing attack in the NFL, and the Texans had taken the lead with 1:54 left.

Hoyer came out for the final drive, as Bill Belichick wanted to get him some real pressure situation experience, and he converted one first down but missed an open Edelman twice on third and fourth down to end the day.

The Patriots shouldn’t have played any of their important starters, in my opinion; this game was meaningless for them. Schaub and the Texans really impressed me. They had playoff hopes on the line and came out and reeled off 21 unanswered points to beat the Patriots, but both the Jets and Ravens won their games, so the Texans are on the outside of the playoff picture this year.

But the biggest thing to come out of this game was obviously Welker’s injury. Edelman stepped into Welker’s spot and came up with career highs with 10 receptions and 103 yards.

New England has always been known to fill in key players pretty easily: Matt Cassel for Brady, Mike Wright for Richard Seymour, and now hopefully it will be Edelman for Welker. Also, Isaiah Stanback’s role in the offense could increase dramatically depending on how fast he can learn the slot.

The biggest thing that will be missing of the field besides Welker’s production will be his leadership. "You're heartbroken for Wes because he's so important to our team. He's probably the heart and soul of our team," Springs said.

The Pats face off against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday at 1 p.m. from Gillette Stadium, which I think this is a bad matchup for New England. Though they beat them back on Oct. 4 in a 27-21 game, a lot has changed for both of these teams in three months.

Baltimore has a two-headed monster at running back with Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, and on the other side of the ball, the Ravens are one of the hottest defenses right now and have arguably the best linebacker in the NFL's history in Ray Lewis.

We have watched this video before on 4SportBoston, but we will share it again because Lewis is scary good.

(Video posted on 4SportBoston.com )

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