10 quick thoughts from Patriots' disappointing road loss in Houston

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The Patriots once again could not pull out a win in a close game.

Trailing by seven late with four minutes remaining, Cam Newton and the Patriots offense got inside the Houston 30-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs allowing Houston to come away with a 27-20 win.

The Patriots offense couldn’t get much going, especially on the ground as it finished with just 86 in the game.

Defensively, it was a major let-down following last week’s performance against the Ravens. Deshaun Watson was 28-for-37 with 344 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots defense allowed too many big plays, which were the difference in the game.

While Cam Newton was solid — 26-for-40 passing with 365 yards and a touchdown — it wasn’t enough.

Here are 10 quick thoughts from the game.

1. Newton continued his trend of getting better each week. The Patriots quarterback seemed in control of the offense for most of the game and had a few of his best throws of the year, notably a 42-yard touchdown to Damiere Byrd in the second half. One of the bigger issues for him were not completing the short easy passes and having a number of passes batted down.

2. The Patriots defense was a bit of a disappointment after last week’s performance against Baltimore. While it was better in the second half, it allowed Watson to throw for 344 yards. It was the first time the defense allowed a 300-yard passer this season. The biggest issue were the number of big plays, as it seems opposing quarterbacks do not fear the Patriots secondary like they once did. Also, a lack of pass rush factors in as well.

3. Byrd had his best game as a Patriot, finishing with six receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown. This was much-needed with Houston doing a good job of taking away Jakobi Meyers. He finished with just three catches for 38 yards. Byrd’s catches also came at some key times, including some big third-down conversions.

4. The lack of pass rush caught up to the Patriots as Watson had a lot of time in the pocket and he made the Patriots pay. For as good as the Patriots covered in the secondary on some plays, the extra time allowed Houston’s receivers to get open. The Texans had three players with at least 80 yards receiving.

5. The Patriots had major issues covering tight end Jordan Akins. He finished with five catches for 83 yards. Kyle Dugger was on him at the beginning and then Joejuan Williams gave it a shot, but he wasn’t much better. It seemed going into the year Bill Belichick had concerns with this, as he targeted Aqib Talib just to cover opposing tight ends. While Dugger showed he can hit and tackle, he struggled in coverage.

6. Nick Folk continues to be a bright spot for the team this season. His two made field goals extended his streak to 17 straight made kicks this season. Given Stephen Gostkowski’s struggles in Tennessee, the Patriots seemed to have made the right decision.

7. After Damien Harris scored his touchdown on the opening drive, he touched the ball on the Patriots' next two plays, then once in the final 17 plays of the half (nine pass, eight runs). Houston’s run defense entered as the worst in the NFL, so it was questionable as to why the Patriots went away from him so quickly.

8. Rex Burkhead left the game with what looked to be a serious knee injury on the first drive of the second half. With Sony Michel coming off IR Saturday, he will likely take over most of Burkhead’s snaps as he shares the backfield with Harris. Michel was inactive for the game.

9. The officiating crew was subpar as there were a few questionable penalties and then delays in the game that took away a good amount of flow and rhythm. The Patriots finished with seven for 55 yards.

10. The Patriots struggled with Watson and it will get even tougher next week when Kyler Murray and the Cardinals come to Gillette Stadium. For as good as the defense was against Lamar Jackson last week, it was equally as bad this week against Watson, likely because Watson is more of a passer than Jackson. The same can be said for Murray, the Patriots will need to figure things out in a hurry.

WEEI

Damiere Byrd’s 42-yard touchdown was Cam Newton's first touchdown pass of the season to a wide receiver.