What We Learned From The Patriots' 34-16 Win Over The Texans

It wasn't as easy as many thought it would be, but the New England Patriots are advancing to their sixth straight AFC Championship Game with a 34-16 win over the Houston Texans. The Texans were able to keep the game close through the first three quarters, then the Patriots pulled away for the victory. Here are the three biggest things we learned from the game:

3) Houston isn't the doormat we thought they were
After being blown out by the Patriots in their regular season meeting - and considering how poor they looked in the regular season despite winning the AFC South - everyone assumed that Houston wouldn't be able to give the Patriots much of a challenge. Turns out, we vastly underrated this Texans team, particularly their defense.

With J.J. Watt in tow, that group will go into the 2017 season as arguably the best in the entire league. Now, if Brock Osweiler (or whoever is under center next year) can be just average under center, the Texans will be a team no one wants to face. They earned a ton of respect with the way their defense played in the loss.

2) Are there problems with New England's offense?
Maybe it was the bye week that threw the Patriots' offense off, or maybe it was the Texans defense (or a little bit of both). Either way, New England's offense played their worst game of the season - by far. Tom Brady wasn't on the same page with his receivers, the offensive line allowed constant pressure on Brady, and they didn't establish anything resembling a running game.

However, the most alarming thing was the way Houston's secondary was anticipating routes, particularly A.J. Bouye. They figured out what the Patriots were trying to do and cut off routes, leading to two interceptions and a few pass breakups. This is something you never see teams do to New England. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels need to make some minor adjustments to get this group playing at a high level again.

1) New England's defense needs to start getting more credit
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense gets almost all of the publicity, but New England's defense has been one of the more underrated units in the league all season - and they showed they deserve more credit in this game. They limited the Texans to just 285 total yards (including a measly 4.2 passing yards per attempt), held Houston to just 3/16 on third down conversions and forced three field goals instead of touchdowns when Houston was in scoring range. 

Yes, Houston's offense isn't exactly a juggernaut, but those are some eye-popping numbers nonetheless. This group's dominance will be New England's key to winning a Super Bowl.

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