EditorsNote: Changes time of Texans’ final TD to 2:08 left
Tom Brady passed for three first-half touchdowns and the New England Patriots forced a pair of turnovers prior to the intermission in their 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Brady finished 26 for 39 for 277 yards, with his handiwork in the first half providing the Patriots enough of a cushion to fend off a superior second-half performance from the Texans and second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson. Brady engineered touchdown drives of 75 and 78 yards in the second quarter, the second offering yet another glimpse of his mastery of the two-minute offense.
The Patriots needed only 74 seconds and eight plays to extend their lead to 21-6 just before halftime, as Brady connected with Phillip Dorsett on a 4-yard score with 14 seconds left. Brady and the Patriots covered 75 yards on 10 plays earlier in the second quarter, building a 14-3 advantage as Brady and James White hooked up for a 12-yard touchdown at the 12:38 mark.
The Texans, meanwhile, were ragged in the early going. Watson fumbled on the first offensive snap of the season, delaying his decision to pull his handoff to Lamar Miller and leaving the ball behind for Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower to recover at the Houston 19-yard line. On a subsequent third down, Brady found tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 21-yard scoring pass.
Midway through the second quarter, Watson threw a deep pass into the end zone against double coverage, and Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore recorded the interception. Watson closed the first half 5 for 13 with 61 yards, an interception, and a fumble.
Facing that same margin in the third quarter, Watson misfired on a fourth-down, red-zone pass to tight end Ryan Griffin. The Patriots responded with a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped by a 39-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal that extended their lead to 24-6. The Texans finally found the end zone with 1:54 left in the third quarter via a 1-yard run by Alfred Blue.
Watson passed for 176 yards and tossed a 5-yard touchdown to Bruce Ellington with 2:08 left.
Gronkowski had seven catches for 123 yards and his early score. Houston sacked Brady twice, both in the fourth.
Texans right tackle Seantrel Henderson was carted off the field in the second quarter and diagnosed with a broken ankle.
—Field Level Media