The Patriots defense can’t let the Texans off the carpet
The Patriots defense had an upcoming squad, of sorts, against the Pirates last Sunday.
Tom Brady’s only 19-point fix, with fewer than 300 yards passed, and no touchdown passes, was a step in the right direction.
However, it wasn’t perfect.
The unit is still having shutdown issues. And before a kneeling set by Brady to finish the game, the Bucs also produced points in their final three drives with a touchdown and two field goals.
So there is always work to be done for Bill Belichick’s defense.
The good news?
Texans are on board, and now, their crime is a mess. Midfielder Deshaun Watson is on the sidelines hoping to be traded. Starter Tyrod Taylor is in reserve with a hamstring injury, and Davis Mills didn’t provide much relief. The rookie looked completely befuddled and superior to Buffalo last week, throwing four picks into the 40-0 carnage.
No doubt Belichick would want to have the Patriots continue to torture the young Texas quarterback.
Here’s how the Patriots’ defense can keep the Texans off the board:
1. Ghost Mills
The Patriots got a little creative in defending Brady last week. And while they may not need to use all the same bells and whistles to try and clear Mills’ nerves, they still want to use a healthy dose of disguise to keep a novice’s head spinning.
Mills may have had nightmares all week, having been 11-for-21 for just 87 yards, with four picks.
The former Stanford star, a third-round nominee, is going through some usual growing pains, but it also doesn’t help that there isn’t a great team around him.
Last week, he had -23 net yards passing in the first half. His overall pass rate for the three games he played is 50.4.
He’s been responsible for five out of the team’s seven transformations. At this point, he is waiting for an objection to occur.
Belichick praised Mills, but he wasn’t over the top, which is the way he usually responds when asked about the opposing midfielder.
“Professional midfielder. I think he has a good base,” Belichick said. “Like any midfielder, he learns all the time, but I think you see a good level of talent and a good ability to throw the ball, and I think they are doing a good job of trying to lure him.”
It was hard for Belichick to say much more, given that Mills had thrown five interceptions, with only two TD passes.
2. Eliminate the chefs
Brandin Cooks is their best receiver and, judging by the stats, Mills’ favorite target.
With four games, Cooks has 28 catches for 369 yards and one TD. He has 20 more catches than the nearest receiver, and he’s back by David Johnson, who has eight.
“He probably targeted as much as any player in the league, and he’s dangerous to everything,” Belichick said of the former Bates’ future. “Obviously he has tremendous speed. He’s a great deep ball player. Super competitive. Tough kid…He can turn a 5 yard gain into a 20 in a hurry.”
The job of eliminating the Chefs falls to JC Jackson, now officially the Patriots High School’s top pistol, with Stefon Gilmore not returning after being traded to the Carolinas on Wednesday.
Last week, Jackson flagged Bucs top receiver Mike Evans. The chef is simply the next man on his dance card. Take it away, this should go a long way towards stifling Mills and attacking.
“He’s definitely their favorite passing guy,” Belichick added of Cox. “We have to do a good job with him.”
3. Base running game
Given the Patriots’ struggles, the Texans will try to run the ball. And they’ll keep it running, until the Patriots force them to stop.
If the Texans manage to hit the rock, it will take some pressure off the rookie quarterback. But if the Bates can get up and narrow down their running game in Texas, that will force Mills to pass more and put him in their wheelhouse.
Last week, the Bills kept the Texans 48 yards in 18 gigs.
Mark Ingram (52 holders, 171 yards) is the top quarterback. David Johnson (16 gigs, 67 yards) and Philip Lindsay (24 gigs, 31 yards) are also in the mix, while longtime friend Rex Burkhead is also a member of the Texas backcountry.
Bottom line, if the Patriots wanted to spoil the Mills, they would have to shut down first.