By Danny Picard
BOSTON — The New England Patriots served us all a little reminder on Sunday. They’re still one step ahead of everyone else in the NFL.
Trailing 33-28 with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots took the ball at their own 25-yard line, following a Houston Texans field goal. They had the benefit of the two-minute warning and one timeout remaining. However, they held another advantage that was even better than stopping the clock.
Houston’s defense was exhausted, dehydrated, and and flat-out cooked.
With temperatures in the mid-80’s on a sunny afternoon in Foxboro, the Texans’ exhaustion was no more evident than when they called a timeout of their own with exactly one minute left in the game and the Patriots at midfield.
Tom Brady, from his own 48-yard line, had just thrown an incomplete pass to Brandin Cooks on 2nd-and-18. Needing a touchdown, it was obviously four-down territory the rest of the way.
And Houston’s defense was toast. So they used a timeout.
You could see it in the Texans’ eyes. They had nothing left in the tank. The worst part about it all, for Houston, was that the Patriots were all over it. They could see the Texans huffing and puffing, practically begging for the water boys to run onto the field during that timeout.
On the very next play, Brady, on 3rd-and-18, connected with Danny Amendola for a 27-yard gain down the right side of the field. Then, the Patriots did something that most of the league would never do.
They refused to stop the clock.