Sarah Barshop, ESPN Staff Writer 325d

Texans defense can't back team's best offensive output since 2015

HOUSTON -- The Houston Texans offense broke through against the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Sunday, but it still wasn't enough for the Bill O'Brien-led Texans to finally win at Gillette Stadium.

Houston had 417 yards of offense in the team's 36-33 loss, which is the most yards of offense it has put up since Week 5 of 2015. Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 301 of those yards. The Texans topped 300 passing yards only once last season, when Tom Savage took over for Brock Osweiler in Week 15 against the Jaguars.

The Texans also scored 30 points for the first time since Week 16 of the 2015 season, when they did it on the road against the Tennessee Titans. Last season, the Texans offense struggled with Osweiler and Savage under center, hitting the 20-point mark in just nine of their 18 games, including the postseason. Houston was 8-1 when it scored at least 20 last season thanks to the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.

And while the defense scored 7 of those 33 points after a Whitney Mercilus strip-sack, when Jadeveon Clowney picked up the fumble and ran in a 22-yard touchdown, the unit struggled at times, especially in the secondary. The Texans don't have much depth at cornerback and were without 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson, who sprained his MCL in the Week 2 victory and is expected to miss four to six weeks. Tom Brady often went after cornerback Johnthan Banks, whom the Texans signed less than a week ago. In the first quarter, the Patriots quarterback completed a 44-yard pass to receiver Brandin Cooks, who beat Banks to set up New England's first touchdown of the game.

Brady threw five touchdown passes without an interception on Sunday. The Texans defense controlled the running game, but the secondary struggled, especially against big plays. Brady was 9-of-13 for 261 yards and three touchdown passes on throws that traveled at least 15 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Those nine completions tied for his most deep completions in a game since 2006.

On back-to-back possessions -- the Patriots' final drive of the second quarter and first of the third quarter -- Brady threw touchdown passes of 47 yards and then 42 yards.

"Look, Tom made some great throws," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Those guys went up and caught the ball. We were in tight coverage on, I think, two or three of them, and other ones we got lost in coverage a little bit. But our guys were competitive as heck. There were times where we were just right there for a sack. The guy's a great player. He did an unbelievable job in the game."

Brady's biggest drive was, of course, the game-winner. Down by 5 points with 2:24 remaining, Brady and the Patriots started their drive at their 25-yard line. The Super Bowl MVP led the Patriots on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive culminated when he found Cooks on the left side of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown with 23 seconds left.

"They scored a touchdown to win the game," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We didn't stop them. That's how football works. I don't know what you want me to say. We didn't stop them. They deserve the credit. They deserve the win. If we wanted to win, we should have stopped them. We tried. It's a tough f------ game. So. We're trying."

Added Clowney: "It was very tough. You don't want to lose a game like that. You've got to play all four quarters, and we didn't finish. We thought we had them on the ropes, but we didn't finish. Hats off to the Patriots; they beat us."

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