NE-HOU Grades: Sheard and Hicks stifle Hoyer, Texans
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Patriots’ 27-6 victory over the Texans:
– An emerging star for the Texans this season has been fourth-year edge defender Whitney Mercilus (+3.1), who actually did a lot of his damage last night rushing from inside in sub-packages. The threat of Jadeveon Clowney (+1.0) and J.J. Watt off the edge left Mercilus with favorable one-on-one matchups against New England center Bryan Stork (-2.6), and Mercilus did not let his opportunities go to waste. Mercilus lived up to his name with a trio of quick pressures, including his first sack since Week 8, working off a spin move on Stork.
– A game of “nearly, but not quite” for Brian Hoyer (-1.9) as a passer, with a number of targets to Ryan Griffin (-1.0) in particular, hitting the deck on what could have been big plays to help bring the Texans back into this game. The blame can be evenly spread between Hoyer’s not-quite-perfect ball placement, Griffin’s inability to secure the pass, and good recoveries in coverage by the Patriots’ secondary. With these opportunities missed, Hoyer’s two fumbles when sacked saw the Texans’ lead in the AFC South prove short-lived.
– It turns out that J.J. Watt is in fact human; playing with broken hand, against an offense keen to getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly (2.17s average time to throw) and get bodies on him, he turned in his lowest overall grade (-1.3) since his rookie season. Not helped by ill discipline (roughing the passer, neutral zone infraction), Watt posted his third negative overall grade of the season, having recorded only one in each of the last three seasons.
OLB Whitney Mercilus (+3.1)
CB Kareem Jackson (+1.4)
LT Duane Brown (+1.4)
OLB Jadeveon Clowney (+1.0)
CB Johnathan Joseph (+0.7)
New England Patriots
– Another week, another accomplished display of quarterbacking from Tom Brady (+3.3), who earned his 10th grade of +2.0 or higher in 12 starts this season. Hooking up with the returning Rob Gronkowski (+1.7) on a fade just before the half all but put the game beyond the Texans’ reach, and Brady’s rapid release was able to cover for all but the most catastrophic losses of his offensive line, as he took a sack on three of the eight dropbacks he was pressured on last night.
– For the third time this season, Jabaal Sheard earned a pass rush grade of +2.0 or above, racking up five pressures as he got to Brian Hoyer for a pair of sacks and a hit. Sheard has earned a positive grade in every game he has played this season, with his consistent performances ensuring that Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich no longer have to wear down playing every single snap of the game with Sheard, allowing for rest and variety in the Patriots’ edge presence.
– The Patriots’ secondary continues to play beyond its name power, with Logan Ryan (+3.2), Malcolm Butler (+2.1), and Leonard Johnson (+1.9) combining to allow only three receptions on 11 targets. Now, two of those completions did go for 89 yards over Ryan and Butler, but for the majority of the game, the New England secondary pooled resources to shutdown DeAndre Hopkins (-0.5), who had a season low in targets, catches, and PFF receiving grade. What was a question mark heading into the season has become an undoubted strength for the Patriots’ defense.
DE Jabaal Sheard (+5.6)
LG Shaquille Mason (+4.1)
DT Akiem Hicks (+4.0)
QB Tom Brady (+3.3)
CB Logan Ryan (+3.2)