Patriots’ rally falls short against Texans

Patriots’ rally falls short against Texans
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts after failing to complete a pass on fourth down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith) (Eric Christian Smith/AP)

HOUSTON, Texas — Trailing by a touchdown with just over one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Cam Newton and the Patriots faced a 4th-and-4 from the Houston 24-yard-line. Needing a conversion to keep New England’s hopes of a third consecutive win afloat, Newton took the snap, looking to keep the drive alive.

However, pressure from the Texans’ defensive line forced Newton to scramble before throwing a last-ditch pass attempt that fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs. The failure on fourth down sealed the Patriots’ fate Sunday, as they fell to the Texans (3-7) in Houston, 27-20.

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In the first half, the Patriots were able to find the end zone on their first drive of the game. RB Damien Harris, who has emerged as the Patriots’ top rusher in recent weeks, capped off the 10-play, 84-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run.

It was Harris’ second touchdown in the last four games for New England.

But following the impressive opening drive for the Patriots, their defense had difficulty containing QB Deshaun Watson (28-for-37, 344 YDS, 2 TDs) for the remainder of the half. The Texans scored touchdowns in three of their next four drives, opening up a 21-10 lead over the Patriots going into halftime.

On two of the three scoring drives, Watson hit wide receivers on passes from inside the 10-yard line. The first was a 3-yard strike to WR Randall Cobb following the Harris touchdown, while the latter was a 6-yard pass to WR Keke Coutee with just 10 seconds remaining in the half.

Watson called his own number on Houston’s second touchdown of the afternoon, scampering into the end zone on a 4-yard run with just under four minutes to go in the first half.

With just over eight minutes to go in the third quarter, the Patriots trailed by 11 points and were looking to start a rally with their offense sputtering. Newton (26-for-40, 365 YDS, 1 TD) obliged by uncorking a 42-yard touchdown pass to WR Damiere Byrd to bring the Pats within a score.

The touchdown was the first for Byrd as a Patriot.

Following the score, New England’s defense tightened down enough to hold Houston to field goals on each of their next two drives, while a 36-yard field goal by K Nick Folk helped keep New England in the contest as time ticked away in the fourth quarter.

However, the Patriots were unable to capitalize on their final two drives of the contest. Following their turnover on downs deep in Houston territory, their defense forced a Texans three-and-out, giving Newton and company one more chance with nine seconds to go.

That final chance came up empty as TE Ryan Izzo was hauled down at the Houston 12-yard line after catching a 50-yard Hail Mary pass from Newton.

Patriots RB Rex Burkhead was injured early in the second half and did not return. The team ruled him out with a knee injury.

With the loss, the Patriots move to 4-6 on the season. They’ll face the Arizona Cardinals (6-4) next Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.