Houston’s Mills faces Patriots team tough on rookie QBs

October 7, 2021 GMT
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Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
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Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

HOUSTON (AP) — The mistake-riddled performance of Houston rookie quarterback Davis Mills last week against the Buffalo Bills led to the most lopsided loss in franchise history.

Things won’t get any easier Sunday when Mills leads the Texans (1-3) against coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots (1-3). Belichick’s New England teams have been rough against rookie signal-callers, posting a 22-6 record in those games.

Before falling to Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa in Week 15 last season, the Patriots had won nine consecutive games against rookie quarterbacks. They started a new streak in their second game this season against Zach Wilson and the Jets. They got after the second overall pick in the draft, sacking him four times and grabbing four interceptions in the 25-6 victory.

Mills tied a franchise record by throwing four interceptions in the 40-0 rout by the Bills in his second start since Tyrod Taylor was injured. Belichick was complimentary of Mills despite his early struggles.


“Like any rookie quarterback, he’s learning all the time, but I think you see a good talent level and a good ability to make the throws,” he said. “And I think they’re doing a good job of trying to bring him along. Not trying to overdo it.”

Mills knows he must take better care of the ball to give the Texans a chance to win. He’s put last week’s debacle behind him and remains confident in his abilities.

“I’ve always been a confident person,” he said. “I think from last week there was a lot to learn from, and I’m glad I kind of got some of those things out of the way so I can learn from it and hopefully improve from it going forward.”

Houston coach David Culley said he’s spent extra time with Mills this week to try and help him get on track.

“Basically, to assure him that we’ve still got his back, he’s our quarterback and we are going to move forward with him,” Culley said. “But he’s got to play better, and we are going to play better with him.”

The Patriots also have a rookie quarterback who has had some struggles early this season in Mac Jones, the 15th overall pick in the draft. He’s thrown four interceptions in the past two games combined after not being picked off in his first two starts.

Jones said he’s starting to get more comfortable, and that the most important thing is for the entire offense to work well together.

“We have a lot of room to grow there, obviously, but the progress has been pretty good,” he said. “But want to get in the win column when we’re here and just try and grind it out and just eliminate those bad plays that we have identified.”


The Patriots now know that CB Stephon Gilmore won’t be on the field for them this season after he was dealt to Carolina Wednesday following a failed negotiation with New England for a restructured contract.


The secondary has done well without him. The Patriots enter Week 5 tied for fourth in the NFL with five interceptions and have the league’s fourth-best passing defense, allowing 185 yards per game.

J.C. Jackson has been New England’s most productive cornerback this season. He leads the team with two interceptions.


The Patriots will see a familiar face on the Texans this weekend with receiver Danny Amendola expected to play after missing the past two games with a thigh injury. Amendola played for New England from 2012-17, helping the Patriots to two Super Bowl titles.


New England was hoping to bring an instant jolt to the offense with the additions of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry this offseason.

After a slow start, the potential of that tandem finally materialized with both catching a TD pass in the same game for the first time this season.

“We haven’t played nearly our best football, I think that’s a positive thing,” Smith said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface. ... We’ve just got to continue to grow.”


Running backs Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson have been sharing carries for the Texans through four games. Houston ran for 160 yards in a Week 1 win against the Jaguars, but has managed just 172 yards combined in the three games since.

The recent struggles have some wondering if Culley might abandon his committee approach to running the ball and choose one guy to carry the load. But that isn’t the plan.

“We think that they all three have a spot back there,” he said. “All three of those guys have different ways of being able to help us offensively.”


AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower contributed to this report.


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