New England Patriots vs Houston Texans: 5 Matchups to Watch
By Hal Bent
New England offensive tackle Nate Solder vs Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
Last week former number one draft pick outside linebacker/defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had his biggest game on the biggest stage of his career. Although he had no sacks, Clowney had an interception, two pass break-ups and a number of pressures.
The only caveat? Oakland had backup left tackle Menelik Watson starting for veteran two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn. That, and Oakland’s incompetent quarterback was third-string rookie Connor Cook making his first career start.
Clowney–who is still only 23 years old– finished with six sacks for the season after missing almost all of his rookie season and clearly getting back to full strength last year. He was voted second team All-NFL by the Associated Press this season.
To get after Brady, Clowney and Houston’s sack leader Whitney Mercilus will have to generate Von Miller type pressure on Brady. Mercilus is going against Marcus Cannon at right tackle and Cannon has been fantastic this season.
Clowney will face left tackle Nate Solder. Solder has been fantastic this season returning from a torn biceps injury which took him out of action in the fourth game of the season. Without Solder, the offensive line crumbled and cost the Patriots a chance for home field advantage in the playoffs and a trip back to the Super Bowl.
This year there has been minimal talk about Solder–exactly how the Patriots want it with their left tackle. Minimal sacks allowed. Minimal penalties. Just solid pass blocking and road-grading run blocking.
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Clowney had a big game against an inferior opponent last week at home. This week he and the Texans have to return to their personal house of horrors in Foxboro and face a much improved pass blocking offensive line. If Clowney cannot get pressure–the Texans’ season will end on Saturday night.