Stephon Gilmore couldn’t have helped the Patriots on Sunday.
Under league rules, any player who starts the season on the Physically Unable to Play roster must stay until Week 7. Even if Gilmore hadn’t been traded to Carolina, he would have been useful in defense as well. of Bill Belichick than anyone seated in the stands.
Ahead of the trade, however, Gilmore would have increased the Pats’ chances in any game like Sunday’s – higher stakes kickoffs and return shots that, if played, will burn them down. .
“Once you come up with a plan and it doesn’t work, you have to keep fighting. … We did not come out with the right amount of energy. They did it. It took us a while to put that fire out, ”Pats linebacker Jamie Collins said after the 25-22 win.
The biggest risk in giving Gilmore to Carolina has always been what the two-time All-Pro cornering left behind. An injury to JC Jackson or Jalen Mills now forces Belichick to start fifth-round rookie Shaun Wade or Joejuan Williams, both healthy a week ago. With Mills ruled out on Saturday, Williams had to be high in the starting lineup.
In the third quarter, he gave a touchdown for 37 yards to Chris Conley, a journeyman who entered the game with 40 receiving yards. for the season. Williams ‘blown coverage followed the Patriots’ worst defensive half of the year, fraught with penalties and breakdowns.
“As a defensive end, I don’t think we played very well in the first half,” said Pats coach Bill Belichick. “So we have to do a lot better than that. Give up two (touchdowns) drive and another 80-yard touchdown, it’s not very good.
Through their struggles, the Pats made Texans rookie quarterback Davis Mills – arguably the league’s worst passer until Week 4 – shine as an All-Pro. Mills threw for 312 yards – nearly doubling his season total – and three touchdowns, one more than he did on Sunday. By comparison, his passer rating, 141.7, more than doubled that of Tom Brady against the Patriots last week when Brady was surrounded by Pro Bowlers.
Specific to the cornerback, JC Jackson gave Houston three first downs and a touchdown in the first half. As Gilmore’s replacement, he’s the starting point for all of this high school’s high hopes in the post-Gilmore era. And after being set on fire in the first half, he calmed down, marking the only deflection of the Pats’ pass.
It bears repeating: Patriots recorded a breaking pass against one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL.
Perhaps most damning of all, the Texans moved the ball comfortably while playing with their left hand. Brandin Cooks, their clear No.1 receiver who came in with 20 more catches than any of his teammates, finished with three receptions for 23 yards. This is precisely what the Pats wanted.
On the other hand, practice team spreader Chris Moore smoked them for 109 yards and a touchdown, while Conley added 84 yards and running back David Johnson made five catches, including two for the first tests. The Patriots’ depth has been on display and will be against Dak Prescott and the Cowboys next week, if Mills can’t come back or Jackson is injured.
That’s the risk that the Pats have submitted to every game the rest of the way. Not just against great passing or good teams. Their pass defense is sensitive any Sunday.
Now, the Gilmore trade does not need to be questioned or traced. The Patriots have moved on. Belichick made it clear that they had no recourse with the movement, a profession with a complicated history and a disappointing market, but black and white consequences for his defense: The Pats are walking a tightrope with their health the rest of. the year.
After slipping with Mills’ injury on Saturday, they came within three points of a fall on Sunday.