Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski missed that game, one of five games that he missed this season. This left the Patriots at a bit of a disadvantage against Houston, not that it really mattered in the end.
Still, to say the Patriots offense had a perfect day in that Monday Night Football game would not be accurate. There were issues but they just didn't receive much attention with the score well in hand all game. After going up 21-0 3:59 into the second quarter, the Patriots went three straight possessions without a first down, in fact they only had one first down in their next four possessions until a bomb to Donte Stallworth put them up 28-0.
Obviously, nit picking in a 42-14 win, but evidence that all was not perfect in the Houston game.
One player that can help change that is Gronk, teamed with Aaron Hernandez for just the sixth time all year. Remember this Patriots offense was originally built around that two tight end set until Hernandez got injured in week 2. It adds a lot of flexibility to the offense.
It all will help the Patriots avoid the Texans strength. Back in November, previewing the Chicago-Houston game, I remember hearing NFL Films' Greg Cosell on the Thundering Herd with an interesting nugget about the Texans scheme.
"I would play the game as much as I could with my base offensive personal and not go three wide wide receivers," said Cosell. "Because when they go three wides, the Texans will play their dime sub package, and that’s where all their pressure comes from."
Funny. The Patriots two (sometimes three) tight end offense is basically built to keep teams in their base defense. With the multiple tight ends on the field, a running back and two wide receivers most teams will have to go to their base, in this case, 3-4 to match up. The defense becomes more predictable and it allows Tom Brady to use his versatile weapons like Hernandez to pick teams apart.
The Patriots have not run as much of that set this year, but if both Gronk and Hernandez are healthy, I don't see much of a reason why not to do it. Of course this is not guarantee that Hernandez is going to get lined up with a linebacker all game, but it certainly helps matter that the Patriots finally have their two youngest and most dangerous weapons back on the field together.