Well, this was certainly a more pleasant game to watch over. A 40-7 victory tends to calm football fans down, no matter how inept the opponent. So, lets take a look individually and see if the Patriots really played well Sunday or it was just a function of a weak opponent.
QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady did what had to be done. It wasn’t the greatest day to be throwing the ball as, although the weather was fine, it was a bit windy. But he dumped off screens with precisions, hit a few big passes on third down and, although his stats weren’t impressive, he did throw a perfect pass on the Patriots first drive which was dropped well down field and he drew an inteference penalty with another long throw. He avoided mistakes. A pretty good day overall, all things considered.
RUNNING BACK: Corey Dillon ran hard, but without a ton of room. He just lacks that obvious burst he had back in 2004. He is still a powerful back and good contributor, but he just doesn’t have the elusiveness or speed he had in that great first season with the Patriots. Sunday, he had some good runs, particularly early, but appears to be better now in combination with someone else. Kevin Faulk had a great day running the ball, catching screen passes and even in blitz pickup. Probably his best game of the season. Heath Evans chipped in too and had some good runs.
WIDE RECEIVER: A somewhat quiet day. Reche Caldwell did have six catches, but not for a lot of yards. Still, he moved the chains on several occasions and drew a long inteference penalty. Jabaar Gaffney had a long drop which hurt, but he somewhat made up for it with a nice job creating some space on his six yard touchdown reception. Nobody else did much. Newcomer Kelvin Kight had a drop. Not a good first impression.
TIGHT END: Pretty solid day. Daniel Graham didn’t get involved in the passing game, but blocked well all day. David Thomas was the most active he’s been all year and he had three catches. He appears to move well in routes and could be a good weapon in that area with increases opportunities.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A solid day and much improved from the Miami game. They were pretty good in run blocking, did a nice job in protection and showed athleticism getting out in front of some screen passes. Stephen Neal in particular had a nice day and you have to love how he always searches out that extra block he can make, which he has the speed and athleticism to usually get to more than most linemen.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Pretty solid day. Ty Warren again was immense. Richard Seymour had a nice day and had an interception after he nicely batted a pass in the air. Mike Wright did a solid job holding his own at nose tackle while filling in for Vince Wilfork, though he’s not a long term solution versus better lines there.
LINEBACKER: Good day here, one of the better games all season. They chased and bothered Houston quarterback David Carr all day. Tully Banta-Cain again got better and this time the jump was by leaps and bounds. He was all over the field, had two sacks, was good against the run and appears to be coming into his own in his new role as a starter. Tedy Bruschi also had his best game of the year and was solid up the middle and appeared more active and moving around better than he has all year. Roosevelt Colvin also had an active, good day. Very encouraging performance from the ‘backers.
SECONDARY: Very good day. Chad Scott was back in form and had a very nice day in coverage and run support. Asante Samuel had another interception and was a blanket in coverage. James Sanders also was good and Ellis Hobbs had his best day in weeks. I also like what Ray Mickens has shown as a nickle back in the slot in his first two weeks and he has been solid coming in as a street free agent.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Great day here. The coverage was great, including some excellent jobs by Larry Izzo, Corey Mays and even newcomer Kelvin Kight. The returns were great, particularly the 97 yard return for a touchdown by Ellis Hobbs which featured great blocks from Mays, Pierre Woods and Willie Andrews, rookies all. Stephen Gostkowski kicked both kickoffs and field goals with confidence and is doing a nice job and even Ken Walter wasn’t too bad.
Jacksonville is up next, a team Houston has beaten twice this year. But expect a much tougher game against a pretty good opponent who is in the playoff race. Until then.