Patriots beat Houston Texans on another Tom Brady comeback, 36-33
FOXBORO — These Patriots comebacks never get old. And apparently, neither does Tom Brady.
The reigning champs were all but buried yesterday for the second time in as many games at Gillette Stadium, but Brady executed the 52nd game-winning drive of his career in their 36-33 victory against the Houston Texans.
“Brady did it again,” a gloating Malcolm Butler said.
Despite getting sacked five times and hit on eight occasions behind a line that lacked right tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion), the 40-year-old completed 25-of-35 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns. He was also 5-of-8 for 93 yards on the game-winning jaunt, which concluded with Brandin Cooks’ toe-tapping 25-yard touchdown with 23 seconds remaining.
“Tom Brady made a special throw,” Cooks said. “I expected nothing less from Tom.”
Cooks caught five passes for 131 yards and his first two scores as a Patriot, and he added a 2-point catch after the game-winner. Rob Gronkowski added eight receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown. Chris Hogan hauled in four balls for 68 yards and a pair of trips to the end zone.
Houston rookie Deshaun Watson was 22-of-33 for 301 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and he did most of his damage while running for his life, adding eight runs for 41 yards. If there had been one play that appeared to define the game, it came on first-and-20 with 5:26 remaining when Watson evaded four tacklers and completed a 31-yard pass to D’Onta Foreman. Ka’imi Fairbairn capped the drive with a 36-yard field goal that pushed Houston’s lead to 33-28 with 2:24 to play.
Watson was brilliant and maddeningly elusive, but so was the victory with Brady on the other sideline. The Clemson product’s Hail Mary bid at the buzzer was intercepted by Duron Harmon to cap the wild comeback.
“Legendary, he’s just a legend,” Pats rookie Deatrich Wise said of Brady. “It’s awesome.”
The Pats’ comeback wasn’t as miraculous as Super Bowl LI, but it was nonetheless extraordinary. After the Texans took a 30-28 lead on Fairbairn’s 31-yard field goal with 12:13 remaining, the Pats’ next two drives resulted in three-and-outs.
During their final march, Brady also resuscitated the Pats from third-and-12 with a 15-yard pass to Gronkowski and third-and-18 with a 27-yarder to Danny Amendola (three catches, 48 yards). And with the clock running, Brady got the offense set with 29 seconds to play and found Cooks.
“Tom is amazing,” Nate Solder said.
The first half certainly didn’t lack entertainment, either, as the lead exchanged hands four times in a 13-minute stretch. Trey Flowers’ sack on the opening series helped the defense force a three-and-out, and Brady saved the offense from a quick third-and-13 hole by hitting Cooks for 44 yards on his first pass of the afternoon. Four plays later, Gronkowski warded off Corey Moore to catch a 5-yard TD for a 7-0 lead.
The Texans exposed a couple of defensive quirks to take the lead on a two-play drive at the end of the first quarter. Braxton Miller got behind Flowers’ rare zone drop for a 15-yard catch, and Bruce Ellington breezed past Jonathan Jones on a post route for a 29-yard touchdown catch and 10-7 advantage.
Stephon Gilmore changed the momentum at the start of the second quarter. Wise drilled Watson, and Gilmore picked a short throw for DeAndre Hopkins and returned it 39 yards to the Texans 12-yard line.
After a penalty, Hogan raced freely across the end zone when Johnathan Joseph collided with a teammate, and Brady hit him for a 7-yard TD and 14-10 lead. Solder didn’t have a great game, allowing two sacks, but he did slow Whitney Mercilus long enough on the play-action pass for Hogan to cross through the Houston defense.
The Texans scored 10 points in 46 seconds, which started with Fairbairn’s 40-yard field goal and ended when Mercilus beat Solder to strip sack Brady, and Jadeveon Clowney plucked the fumble out of the air and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown and 20-14 edge.
The deficit was short-lived. After Brady and Amendola hooked up for 17 yards on third-and-10, Hogan raced through a coverage breakdown for a 47-yard score that pitted the Pats to a 21-20 lead.
The Pats stretched the margin when Cooks rocketed past Johnthan Banks for a 42-yard TD. Credit the line, which gave Cooks enough time to get deep into his route and behind a linebacker in zone coverage before Brady uncorked a missile for a 28-20 advantage.
Watson made an impressive throw to Ryan Griffin in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard TD to cut it to 28-27. The Texans were 6-of-14 on third down in the game, but they had four conversions in their first five opportunities in the second half when they retook the lead at 30-28.
“We just kept fighting,” Brady said.