Heading into the final week of the season, the Patriots had all kinds of momentum on their side. They had won three straight games and were coming off their most complete performance against a team that had playoff aspirations. All of that momentum came to a screeching halt Sunday in Houston when the Pats lost 34-27, and I’m not even talking about what happened to Wes Welker. It’s highly possible that had Tom Brady played the entire game and not just a majority of the game that the Patriots may have prevailed. That being said, rookie Brian Hoyer played very well, much better than I expected. Hoyer finished the game after playing a couple of series before the half and the last two minutes of the game 8/12 for 71 yards and a 10-yard run.
What was troubling (without touching the Wes Welker injury yet) was what happened in the second half. Again. Namely in the fourth quarter. At halftime, the game was tied 13-13. The Patriots then scored a touchdown in the 3rd quarter and again in the 4th quarter, holding a 27-13 lead. Then came the 4th quarter collapse. Andre Johnson, through the design of the plays, was finally able to shake Shawn Springs free and get matched up with Jonathon Wilhite and took advantage. The Texans rattled off 21 4th-quarter points. Tom Brady’s last series ended with an interception with 3:49 left in the game, which brought in Hoyer who lead a gallant but unsuccessful final drive.
Of course, then there’s the season-ending injury to Wes Welker, the Patriots’ all-everything receiver. On the Pats’ first drive of the game, on his first reception of the game, Welker made a cut like he always does, but came up with what is reported to be an ACL-MCL tear (like what Brady had last year). Patriots fans across the country gasped and just knew it was bad, judging by the grimace on his face. It’s a devastating blow to the offense but one the Pats will have to overcome if they hope to get past Baltimore this coming Sunday. Welker getting injured in what was essentially a meaningless game brings up the question: Should Welker and other valuable starters have even played?
Even seeing what happened to Wes, I say yes. It was important for the starters to try and keep the momentum going, which they had until the 4th quarter. Despite me rejoicing in the fact that the Colts didn’t go undefeated, I thought it was wrong to pull the starters when they did and I think that teams should play their players, at least for a good portion of the game. That goes for the Pats as well. That injury could have just as easily have happened in practice or the first play of the playoff game. It happens. It’s football folks, and I don’t think (I hope) that fans don’t make a controversy about playing the starters, especially if they ridiculed the Colts.
Now, it is possible that the field had something to do with Wes’ injury. Belichick blasted the condition of the Houston field on his WEEI radio appearance earlier this evening. If you looked at the field, it did seem rather patchy, and you can see all of the various shades of green. Belichick even mentioned that he was concerned about the field conditions before the game. Here’s some of what Belichick said about the field:
“The turf down there is terrible. To me player safety starts on the surface that we play on … the quality of the field I thought was poor. You think it’s going to grab and it gives, you think it’s going to give and it grabs and that’s where you get those non-contact injuries like what we saw Sunday.”
You can listen to his entire WEEI appearance and all he said about Houston, the field, the Ravens, and more here.
Tomorrow I’ll wrap up the Houston game with my likes and dislikes from the game and then Wednesday I’ll start looking at the Baltimore Ravens and the Pats in the playoffs Sunday.