FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots host the Houston Texans on Sunday, Bill Belichick will be scheming against 22-year-old rookie Deshaun Watson, who will be the second-youngest starting quarterback to face a team with Belichick as head coach.
One has to go back to 1993, Belichick's third year as Cleveland Browns coach and two years before Watson was born, to identify the youngest quarterback to face a Belichick-coached team. It was 21-year-old Patriots rookie Drew Bledsoe.
That's a neat nugget (courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information) to highlight as Patriots players return to work Wednesday. It's a day defenders will receive the initial parts of a game plan that should emphasize not letting Watson's athleticism beat them.
"Good poise, has a good arm, I think he can make all of the throws he needs to make. Obviously, he can throw on the run. A really athletic guy," Belichick said of Watson on Tuesday.
The history of Belichick-coached teams facing rookie quarterbacks is timely to revisit this week, and it starts with this: The Patriots are 8-0 at home against rookie signal-callers.
Overall, Sunday will mark the 21st game in which a team coached by Belichick faces a rookie quarterback. The Patriots are 15-5 in those games.
The Patriots practiced against Watson when the Patriots and Texans got together for two joint workouts in mid-August in West Virginia, and they then faced him in the preseason when he wasn't particularly sharp, finishing 3-of-10 passing for 102 yards.
That background makes this matchup different from any other against a rookie quarterback, where unfamiliarity actually might have worked against the Patriots.
"A very dangerous quarterback," warned defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. "I think he's a guy who gives them a different approach to the offense. He's very calm. A real smooth guy. This guy is an experienced guy from the standpoint of he has played in some big games before."
Watson's ability to escape pressure and run, as evidenced by his dynamic 49-yard touchdown scamper in last Thursday's 13-9 win over the host Cincinnati Bengals, is naturally a concern for the Patriots.
"His ability to move, and his speed and skill set to make tacklers miss and get out into open space, is definitely at a very high level that we've got to prepare for," Patricia said. "I think the big thing is making sure that we all understand that once the guy does turn into a full-blown runner, we have to make sure that we do a really good job of hustling and getting everybody to the ball because he is difficult to tackle."
In that sense, Watson is somewhat similar to the first rookie quarterback to ever beat a Belichick-coached Patriots team -- the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, in 2004. Roethlisberger has always been tough to bring down.
The other rookie quarterbacks in the win column are the Jets' Mark Sanchez (2009), the Browns' Colt McCoy (2010), the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (2012) and the Jets' Geno Smith (2013).
One common thread in all of those victories: Teams averaged 166 rushing yards per game against the Patriots to support their rookie quarterback. Those clubs also had highly rated defenses.
In contrast, rookie quarterbacks with multiple turnovers are 0-10 in games against Belichick's teams.
So now it's time to add another chapter to this book. Watson is coming to town, and as history reflects, the Patriots will be ready.