HOUSTON — Even though the point total was lacking, there were signs of life and sprinkles of progress with the Patriots offense last week against the Cowboys.
Left tackle Isaiah Wynn helped get the run game going, with lead back Sony Michel having one of his better outings this season. Rookie wide receivers N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers also made key plays and got valuable game time with Tom Brady given the absences of Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett. Harry even scored.
With the Texans on deck, the goal for Brady & Co. is to make more strides during the Sunday night game at NRG Stadium. It is December, after all, and this is the time when the offense needs to pick it up.
“This is the time where everyone starts to separate themselves,” said Dorsett, who is no longer in the concussion protocol. “Some teams get worse, some teams get better. Super Bowl teams get on the upper trend. So this is the time I feel like we have to stay consistent. Guys are making plays. If we can keep doing the small things better, I feel like we can get a lot better and make a big jump.”
Wynn, Harry and Meyers figure to be central to that equation. In the big picture, the trio should play an important role in the offense ultimately being able to hold up its end of the bargain if the defense can’t keep an opponent down. At the moment, there are serious questions whether the offense is capable of doing that, and winning in a shootout.
But as Brady continues to remind everyone, this isn’t a finished product. It’s a work in progress. That’s how it was last year, too, before establishing what the unit was going to be, how they were going to ultimately succeed.
Brady alluded to that mission during his weekly appearance on Westwood One Monday night.
“Being in the position I’ve been in for 20 years, and seeing the evolution of our offense, and having experience, I do feel like I have some accumulated knowledge of what it takes to be a high-caliber offense. And we’re working to get there,” he said. “I know we haven’t found our stride quite yet, but we’re working hard to find it. There’s times where you find it early in the season, there’s times when you find it late in the season. The point is, everyone is working hard together in order to try to be the best this version of this team can be.”
Due to injuries, the Patriots haven’t had Wynn or Harry for much of the season. But now Wynn should be an upgrade at the position. He struggled at first against the Cowboys, but as the game wore on, got much better. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels noted how Wynn was quick to figure out what he needed to fix. They’re expecting the left tackle to improve even more against the Texans, a case of the flu notwithstanding. Wynn was one of the nine Patriot players affected by illness during the week, missing practice on Wednesday.
“It was good to get Isaiah back out there, good for him to get back out there. I know he was eager to do that. There’s nothing that you can do to really simulate the movement and the speed of the game in a National Football League regular-season game,” McDaniels said with respect to Wynn’s return. “For any player coming off of a rather long period of time off, it is a little bit of an adjustment period. I think he acclimated well once he got settled in. He’s playing against good players over there on the left and I thought he held his own. I thought he did some really good things and then did some things where we’ll look forward to improving this week.”
The Texans should help the cause. They have the 20th-ranked defense in the league. They’re 25th against the pass (259.3 yards per game), and 17th against the run (4.6 yards per carry). Teams are averaging 22.6 points a game against them. So the Patriots can attack Romeo Crennel’s defense, which lost pass rushers J.J. Watt (season-ending injury) and Jadeveon Clowney (trade to Seattle), either by Brady going air show, or handing off the ball.
Whether Sanu or Dorsett return or not, Brady can still continue to develop his chemistry with Harry, who scored a touchdown against the Cowboys on a back shoulder throw in the end zone, and Meyers, who got open to make several plays. Harry, the team’s first-round pick, has shown an ability to make contested catches. He provides a big-bodied target in the red zone and along the sideline.
The Patriots can also continue to hone their running game, which they’re absolutely going to need going forward.
“We know what we’re capable of as an offense, and each week we’re just trying to improve and build and just going to do whatever it takes each and every week,” said running back James White. “We’re going to go out there and try and score as many points as possible and complement the defense and special teams.”
With Wynn and Harry both back in the mix, and Meyers factoring in along with veterans Julian Edelman, Sanu and Dorsett, the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together.
“We’re trying to get to a place where we can really understand the things we’re good at,” said Brady, “and the things we’re not so good at so that as we move into the most critical part of the year, we can do the things well, that we’ve done most consistently over the course of the year.”
PREDICTION: Patriots 23, Texans 17
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