New England Patriots: 2 big reasons team is still alive in the AFC East

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 10: Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots recovers a fumble during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 10: Matt Judon #9 of the New England Patriots recovers a fumble during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots are still alive in the AFC East after beating the Houston Texans and there are two major reasons why.

For certain, things looked bleak after the Texans marched right down the field on the first drive of the game after the kickoff and scored. Only the missed extra point was positive.

Yet, against great odds, including four offensive line starters out of the lineup, they fought back and rallied late to take home the win.

Lots of commentaries can be made on the game itself, but let’s take a look at its overall ramifications for the season to this point and two key players who’ve made the difference.

Why the New England Patriots beating Houston is huge

This game was big for a number of reasons. First, it keeps any realistic hope of a postseason appearance as unlikely as that may be alive.

The Patriots are now a game ahead of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets and two behind the Buffalo Bills in the division.

They could have been/should have been four and one and tied with the Bills.

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Unfortunately, they let two games slip from their fingers against Miami and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they are where they are. Here are two major positive observations to offer from this game.

New England Patriots Mac Jones continues to wow ’em

The team showed resilience. They looked like they’d be blown out early. But Mac Jones and his team refused to lose as they say and continued to battle back.

Resilience is huge and the trait most identified with winners as the great Tom Brady has demonstrated for 21 years. This Patriots team with Mac Jones is beginning to show similarly.

Jones continues to demonstrate the traits of a seasoned veteran already after five games. He’s been that good.

While he threw a pick yesterday as he did against Brady and the Bucs, he’s still completing his passes to his own team at an incredible rate clip.

Yesterday, it was 76.6 percent of his passes. It could have/should have been even higher. One gimme was dropped by the usually more reliable Jacobi Meyers.

This drop by Meyers may just have gone for six. Too bad, he was wide open and it might have been his first touchdown catch ever.

That catch would also have brought Jones to a remarkable 80 percent completion percentage on the day.

Jones’ completion numbers are sick folks. They’re not rookie numbers. They are not even veteran numbers. These again are Drew Brees-like, all-time super numbers.

In addition, his receivers while not spectacular, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and the aforementioned Meyers, are catching the ball on most occasions now. That’s a huge boost.

And the two free-agent tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are finally demonstrating why New England spent a barrel-full of owner Robert Kraft’s dough on them. They’re producing.

New England Patriots defense has a new leader

Speaking of Mr. Kraft’s largess, the guy they spent the most on in the off-season, Matt Judon has exploded onto the scene like a supernova for the New England Patriots.

A favorite here from the get-go, Judon is even exceeding expectations that were sky-high, to begin with.

He’s been as hoped (not advertised, since he frankly had flown under the radar as a Raven). That happened even though he had been a Pro-Bowler for the past two previous seasons.

Now, as a Patriot, he’s coming into his own not only as a top NFL player but as a leader of the defense.

The Patriots craved sacks. In 2020, their top sack leader was Chase Winovich with five and a half. Judon has already surpassed that with 6.5 in five games.

How good has he been? Simply awesome. And, Judon is playing on a new team, a new defense, with new teammates. He’s just getting untracked.

Judon currently sits tied for second in the NFL in sacks with Hassan Reddick of Carolina and only a half-sack behind league-leader, Myles Garrett of Cleveland.

Yesterday, he had two sacks, and a fumble recovery to seal the deal against Houston. This could be a monster sack season for Judon for this team that hasn’t been able to close the deal with sacks for years.

Judon is beginning to look like the Patriots’ all-time best linebacker and sack man par excellence, Hall-of-Famer, Andre Tippett. Tipp had 100 sacks in 11 years with New England.

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These were capped off with a massive 18.5 in 1984 and 16.5 in 1985. If Judon keeps up this pace he’ll be in that amazing stratosphere.

So, these are two big reasons why the New England Patriots are still alive in the AFC East. There are others. What’s your take on the importance of the Houston win? We’d like to hear.