Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 14, 2017
The New England Patriots have been the best team in football for the better part of twenty years now, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a couple teams who play the part of inferior, sort of in a little brother type of way.
However, there are two different categories of these little brothers. (I’m leaving out all of the teams the Patriots don’t have a whole lot of history with.)
First, you’ve got the teams who long to become the superior. The Bills, the Dolphins, the Jets, all of them, want to get out from the shadow of the Patriots. The Dolphins had that rah-rah speech from Tony Sporano in 2009 in which he said the road to the division title ran through Miami (excuse me, I need a moment). And, both the Jets and Bills have given the Rex Ryan experiment a shot in hopes to de-throne Bill Belichick’s army. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way for either of them, and the Patriots have fourteen AFC East titles to prove it.
Second, you’ve got one team — the Indianapolis Colts — who want to get out from the shadow casting from New England, that they’ll do anything to accomplish that. If you didn’t put two and two together, I’m talking about DeflateGate. After being brought behind the woodshed, over, and over, and over, and over again, the Colts had had enough. Their number-one option was to bring the Patriots down, and that’s what they did, or at least tried to do. DeflateGate happened, and that sucked, but I guess the Patriots maintained the role of big brother because they are here, in the playoffs, and the Colts are nowhere to be found.
That brings me to the last little brother team, the one that does want to overcome the Pats, but also seems to embrace the role they’ve been put into. That team is the Houston Texans.
Yup, those Texans, the ones that are coming to Gillette tonight for a playoff game, are indeed the Patriots’ little brother.
On the surface, it might be easy to make that connection. The Patriots beat them, always have beaten them, and always will beat them. That’s the brother relationship where big bro hold his hand on little bro’s forehead and let’s him swing as much as his little heart desires. It looks a little like this:
(If you knew how long I looked for a gif displaying this you’d understand why I chose this one)
But to give you a better idea, let’s look at the history between these two teams.
Their first two games, rather unimportant, finished in Patriots’ victories. From there, things get more interesting. On January 3rd, 2010, the Texans defeated the Patriots in the last week of the regular season. That certainly seems like it’d be a bright spot for Houston, but it wasn’t what it should have been for them. Bill Belichick deactivated a number of starters, Wes Welker tore his ACL during the first drive of the game, and Brian Hoyer saw the field. A win is a win, but the Texans didn’t get the best of the Patriots’ best, if that makes any sense.
Since that 2010 game, it has been ALL Pats.
On December 12th, 2012, we saw the letterman jacket game. J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, and the rest of the Texans waltzed into Gillette Stadium, wearing their custom Texans letter jackets, fully expecting to give the Patriots a run for their money. They did not. Tom Brady threw for 296YD and 4TD en route to a 42-14 victory. And that wasn’t the only time the Pats fleeced the Texans that season, either. A couple of weeks later, in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, they dropped 40+ again, and ended Houston’s season.
Then, during the ’13-’14 season, the Pats travelled to Houston and played what should be considered the best game between these two teams – a back and forth thriller which eventually ended on a New England defensive stop late in the fourth quarter.
That game late in 2013 should have been a step in the right direction for Houston. They were on a nine game losing streak, were quarterbacked by Case Keenum, and still had the Patriots on the ropes for almost sixty minutes. However, it wasn’t. In fact, if you look at how HOU/NE matchups have gone since then, it’s just an outlier.
On December 13, 2015, the Patriots went back down to Houston. Like in 2012, the Texans were expected to give the Patriots a game. For the second time, they didn’t. With Rob Gronkowski returning from injury, the Pats dominated from the opening kick to the final whistle. The final score, 27-6, wasn’t as crazy as it could have been, but at no point during that game did I have any inkling of concern.
And that’s the same way I felt during this season’s matchup. Coming into Week 3, everyone was drooling over the Texans’ defense facing a third-string quarterback. They said it would give the Patriots fits. Tom Brady was suspended, Jimmy Garoppolo was injured, and Jacoby Brissett would be under center. There was no way Houston could get killed, right? Wrong. Brissett threw for only 103YD, and the Patriots still won 27-0.
Now, losing to a third-string quarterback is embarrassing by itself, but they way the Texans lost was even worse. For the entire game, Brock Osweiler couldn’t do a thing (he sucks), so Lamar Miller would just run the ball three times and they’d punt the ball back to the Pats. It was a helpless performance, and made the Texans look as pathetic as a professional football team can.
But, it was that gameplan that made it so clear to me that the Texans are little brothers to the Patriots.
A little brother will try to beat the older brother. We’ve seen that from the Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Colts, and Texans. And, a little brother will do things to take jabs at the older brother. We’ve seen that with DeflateGate in Indy, and although seemingly meaningless, the letter jackets from Houston. But, a third thing a little brother will do, is submit to their older brother. We’ve only seen that from the Texans.
In 2014, Houston hired Bill O’Brien, a former Patriots OC. With his hiring, Foxborough South was completed. They had Romeo Crenel on staff, Mike Vrabel on staff, and O’Brien was just the piece necessary to complete the Patriot triangle. I know that sounds like something good, but it’s not.
All three of those guys were, at one point or another, prominent members of the New England Patriots. They were revered, loved, and thought of as true Patriots. And, I think that stuck with them. They know exactly what they’re going to get from the Pats, and they know exactly how difficult, or improbable, it is to beat them. Week 3 reflected that.
That game wasn’t the performance of a coaching staff that thought they could beat the Patriots. From the minute the game began, the Texans looked defeated. They just ran the ball a couple of times and gave the ball right back to New England. I don’t know about you, but that seems to me like a team who just wanted to get it over with. There was no urgency, no real type of gameplan, just blatant submission — something the Patriots prey on.
And, it’s happening again.
This week, Bill O’Brien showered Tom Brady with praise.
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) January 9, 2017
Bill O'Brien on Tom Brady: 'To me, he's the best quarterback to play the game'
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 9, 2017
Bill O'Brien on Tom Brady: 'He's seen it all. It's really just a matter of fundamental football'
— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 11, 2017
While I agree with everything O’Brien said, I firmly believe that complimenting an opponent like that, puts you in a strange place mentally. On one hand, you want to beat that person across from you, but, on the other, you understand, and have verbalized just how highly you think of them. I just think that creates some sort of competitive barrier.
Now, you might be thinking, didn’t Tom Brady have some extremely complementary words for O’Brien as well? And, you’d be right. He did. However, he’s not the one coming in as a sixteen point underdog. Plus, the Patriots are media trained like no other team. They know exactly what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. If Brady thought his compliments towards O’Brien weren’t the very best thing to do in that moment, he wouldn’t have said them.
That might sound crazy, but it’s weird stuff like this that Bill Belichick focuses on. He thinks about absolutely everything. Obviously it’s easier for him because he’s ALWAYS coming from a place of superiority, but it’s rare that he goes as far to say that someone’s the greatest to ever do something. Yes, he’ll talk about certain players in a positive manner, call them great weapons, comment on their abilities, but he’s not going to do anything that could be construed as pre-determined defeat for the Patriots, and that’s the difference between them, and the Texans.
Houston is coming from a place of inferiority. They’ve been beaten up, thrown around, and dominated by the Patriots. Their attempts to ‘rebel’ have been squandered, and now that they’re full of former New Englanders, it’s like they’ve surrendered before they’ve started. They know what to expect, they know that’ll be nearly impossible to overcome, and they throw up the white flag as a result. I’m obviously not opposed to this, I’ll take Patriot wins any way I can get them, but this matchup, one that should be some sort of rivalry hasn’t ever been and will not be if this trend continues.
P.S. There is a big chance I’m just creating this theory because I do this thing every gameday where I convince myself that the opponent will beat the Patriots. This whole little brother thing is just reason for me to believe that the Patriots will hang 40 and roll out of Gillette with yet another Divisional Round W.