You can chalk up this latest game as yet another semi-ugly, yet thrilling win for this 2013 Patriots team. What a season this has been! For the past three years we had been watching a team that would drop a ridiculous amount of points that would compensate for some generally horrific defense. Occassionally, when things weren't clicking on offense, or they ran up against a good defense, they would lose a game. This team is completely different. There is rarely such a thing as a fourth quarter that you can sit comfortably through. Every game is a battle, some offensive, some defensive. The Patriots' massive injury list is certainly playing a role in the way these games are being played, but overall, the way this team is built and the character they are displaying on the field is making for some really compelling football.
Thinking all the way back to Week 1, just look at this list of epic nail biters and/or tremendous comebacks…
Buffalo Week 1
New York Week 2
Cincinnati Week 5
New Orleans Week 6
New York Week 7
Miami Week 8
Carolina Week 11
Denver Week 12
Houston Week 13
Only the games against Tampa and Pittsburgh were true blowouts. The Atlanta game was fairly lopsided as well, but there were some tense moments at the end. Nine out of twelve games so far have edge-of-your-seat affairs. The closest thing that I can equate this to is what we experienced back in 2003, when the Pats ran off fifteen straight on their way to the Super Bowl and could have easily lost about eight of those fifteen along the way if the ball had bounced the other way. Those Patriots, however, made their own luck and did the little things to ensure that when things got razor thin, they ended up on the winning side of the equation. As I look at this team and their fight and determination, I can't help but wonder if all of these tight contests, win or lose, will serve them well in the post-season. The past few years, the Patriots went through the regular season on almost cruise control and when they took a punch to the mouth in the playoffs, they almost didn't know how to respond. The 2013 Patriots are, if anything, battle-tested. There simply isn't anything at this point, save a critical injury to Brady, Gronk, or Talib, that is going to be able to rattle them.
They are now in the driver's seat and control their own fate for a much-needed bye week. With four games left against Cleveland, Miami, Baltimore, and Buffalo, one could think that they have the #2 spot or higher all but wrapped up. However, if the past thirteen weeks have taught us anything, it's that no one on the schedule can be taken lightly and that these Patriots will find a way to keep us interested for all four quarters.
Stephen Gostkowski (K) – Just as Adam Vinatieri kicked true in this stadium to give the Patriots their 2nd championship, The Ghost was pure money in the 4th quarter, nailing back-to-back 53-yarders to tie the game and then take the lead.
Rob Gronkowski (TE) – It was a banner day for the "Kowski's" in Houston, as Gronk once again displayed his super-human abilities, hauling in six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown. It never gets old watching defenders bounce off him and get dragged along as they attempt to tackle him.
Julian Edelman (WR) – Julian hauled in nine catches for 101 yards in yet another "Welker-esque" performance. With now 70 catches on the season, he has #100 in his sights coming down the final stretch.
James Develin (FB) – To take a page from LeBron James' book, James Develin shook off not four, not five, not six… tackles as he powered his way into the end zone.
Entire Team – The Patriots made it through the game without commiting a single penalty.
Kyle Arrington (DB) – Playing outside of his comfort zone on the outside, Arrington got torched for a critical 66-yard bomb in the 4th quarter that put the Texans back in the lead. In the slot position, he's extremely capable, but any time he's asked to do more than that, he's proven to be a huge liability.