FOXBORO — For a time, it was possible that the toughest opponent the Patriots might have faced last week could have been the flu.
However that time, according to the Patriots, was short-lived.
“That was more hype than anything. By the end of the week, we had guys practicing. We knew exactly what we had,” Pats safety Devin McCourty said after the team’s 28-22 loss. “We didn’t have anybody like on their death bed.”
McCourty equated the scene at practice on Friday, when most ill Patriots had returned to the field after brief absences, to a week when several teammates are battling injuries. The team was fairly certain who would be available and who would stay home for its upcoming trip to Houston. In the end, only two of the 10 sick Pats sat out Sunday’s game — both backups.
“We had a good idea of who was playing,” McCourty said. “I wouldn’t say — other than how guys felt individually out there playing … I wouldn’t say we were thrown off a lot by that.”
Special teams captain Matthew Slater, the longest-tenured Patriot aside from Tom Brady, described the team’s situation as “certainly unique.” Players were instructed to wash their hands constantly in the facility. A few wore surgical masks in Foxborough and later at the stadium in Houston.
Never before had 10 players made an injury report due to illness. In all, 18 were listed on the team’s final injury report. Only four were sidelined.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the guys tonight that went out there and weren’t 100 percent but they put it on the line for their teammates,” Slater said. “And they put it on the line because they care about this team, and they care about the success of this team. So I appreciate those guys, no question.”
As for the game itself, the Pats denied any connection between their recent poor health and poor performance. The Texans held a 21-3 lead in the third quarter and eventually held on for their first win over the Patriots since Jan. 2010.
“I think guys just battled hard, and I think you deal with a lot of adversity over the course of the season,” Brady said. “I don’t think that had any effect on the game.”
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