Texans vs. Patriots: The Joy of Ugly Football
Let’s face it, tonight’s Texans vs. Patriots game is likely to be some ugly football. You’ve got the Patriots, who have rebuilt themselves into a defensive team that relies on quarterback magic to make some offense now down to a 3rd string rookie QB/WR behind center. Not likely to light up the scoreboard, unless we see another Belichick classic where a RB that nobody knows steps in and runs for 200 yards. On the other side, you have a sinister defense with J.J. Watt and a supporting cast that is finally getting it done trying to set up Brock Osweiler, who has looked good so far, but will be facing a major test tonight. It’s probably going to be ugly.
How to Watch Texas vs. Patriots on TV Tonight
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV: CBS, NFL Network
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online Streaming: Sunday Ticket, Twitter
But, make your peace with ugly. You know what’s fun about ugly football? You can stop watching the ball all the time. The TV camera set up for the NFL is designed to let you follow the ball. This is, of course, what the casual fan wants to do. It’s not what coaches want. They want the “all 22” look that shows the players aligned with the field, not shot from the sideline across. This allows you to see the safeties on defense, see zone runs better, and see what route in the route tree receivers are running and a thousand other things. In many ways it’s a superior angle to understand the game. You especially see the war in the trenches as the OL and DL battle it out to establish supremacy. This is usually what decides a game, absent a major differential in turnovers or some individual player just going off, both of which are pretty common, of course.
Tonight promised to be a glorious night to watch the “big uglies” bang away on the line, which can be enjoyed rightly enough from the TV angle. Start with the joy of watching J.J. Watt. Even casual football fans know a guy who keeps winning defensive player of the year awards is a superstar. But, take a quarter and just watch him on every down. He’s not a “specialist” that rushes the passer or eats up space in the run game. He blows up every single play. He sheds blockers on runs and usually causes runners to have to adjust the run to cut back to another lane. He demands double teams on passing plays and often beats them. No other player in the NFL creates such every down chaos, even when he doesn’t wind up making the tackle. He’s going against a solid O-line that coach Belichick is good at moving around and using in unconventional ways (like his rotation experiments to get each player some experience at other positions). Particularly interesting will be when Watt is matched up with right tackle Marcus Cannon, who is large even by NFL O-line standards at a listed 335 lbs. or Shaq Mason, who is a former Georgia Tech option run blocker with outrageous athleticism for a 300 pound human.
On the Patriots defense, you have more of a “system” than a unit built around individual stars, but the stars are there, don’t be fooled. The Pats understand the importance of athletic linebackers to deal with the bewildering ways in which NFL offenses try to create run/pass uncertainty with TEs, RBs that can catch the ball and package plays. To counter all that you need athletic, intelligent middle linebackers. Enter Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower. Both are extremely athletic, right in their prime as players and capable of absolutely dropping the hammer on people either filling the hole in a run or blasting crossing routes after dropping back into the zone on pass plays.
Perhaps this game surprises me and they beat a 70 point over/under. But, I doubt it. More like 17-14, I’m guessing. But, I’m cool with that. I’m going to sit back and enjoy watching the “War Daddies” bang it out all game.