Defensive Comparison Between Both Games
For the first three-quarters of the New England game, Houston looked like it had really turned a corner defensively. Impending the return of free-agent acquisition Bradley Roby, the secondary would be as strong as it had been all season. He played the game of his career, as he accumulated a sack, an interception he returned to the five-yard line and had another wiped away after a penalty.
Jonathan Joseph, now 35 years old, ended the game as the No. 1 player all-time for passes defensed, which is a testament to his longevity as a corner. He played particularly well in the goal line packages, though the Patriots didn’t get a ton of separation anywhere on the field.
In garbage time, James White totaled two easy touchdowns against under matched linebackers. On one drive, New England marched 94 yards in 1:46, as if the Texans took their foot off the brakes. One major positive out of this performance was the humongous breakout of pass rusher Jacob Martin, who added two more sacks to his surprising emergent season.
Next week, things took a major turn for the worst right out of the gate. No offense, but Noah Fant‘s not the dominant player that the Texans made him look like on Sunday (113 yards, one touchdown, 28.2 YPC).
The corners and linebackers covering him often tried to jump the route to bring home big plays, yet ended up getting burned and leaving their man open to acquire massive YAC. Drew Lock was making his second career NFL start (280 less than Tom Brady) and managed to make John Elway look like a competent general manager in the process.
With no name receivers like Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton, Lock was able to slice and dice the Texans inconsistent secondary to the tune of 309 yards and three touchdowns. He was picked once near the end of the game by Tashaun Gipson, but that can be attributed more so to his veteran football IQ and ball-hawking nature.
Stud middle linebacker Zach Cunningham continued his torrid, AFC-leading pace for tackles, racking up 11 as the focal point of the team. No other defender managed to accumulate more than three solo tackles, as evidenced by the Broncos’ ability to move the ball wherever they wanted downfield.