A few key Texans get first crack at Pats

A few key Texans get first crack at Pats
January 9, 2013, 9:15 pm
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For the Texans, Sunday will be a second chance to beat the Patriots.

For a few key Texans, it’ll be their first.

Starters Derek Newton and Brooks Reed, as well as key role player Garrett Graham, missed the 42-14 shellacking in Week 14.

They had to watch that terrible performance as their team was beaten up and down the field by the Patriots, but they won’t be watching this Sunday. All three players will be back for the divisional round game.

“Pretty difficult,” said Reed, who missed the Patriots game with a groin injury. “It’s tough watching your guys go out there and play their hearts out and I’m stuck here. But it was a groin injury so … Now it’s a little bit different. I’ll be out there and try to make plays on my own.”

Reed came back for the Vikings game but aggravated his groin injury, which forced him to miss the regular-season finale against the Colts. He was, however, able to play against the Bengals in the wild card round and came out of that game healthy. There’s no doubt he’ll be able to play in Foxboro this time around.

“It means a lot,” Reed said. “I was so disappointed that I couldn’t play last time. I can’t wait to play them and it means a lot.”

Second-year right tackle Newton missed the New England game with a knee injury. It was the second of two games he missed with the injury. Since then, though, he has been healthy and started 14 of 16 regular season games and the playoff game against Cincinnati.

“That was very tough to watch it but I had to get better and be able to come back and help my team in the next week or so, so I had to put all my faith in them and I had to let them go play without me,” Newton said.

“I’m very excited to be back with the team, being able to help in any way I can. I’m just going to prepare really hard this week and get ready for the big challenge ahead.”

Duane Brown, the team’s left tackle and one of the elder statesmen on the team, said that the team is noticeably different with Newton in the lineup. During the two games Newton missed, NFL veteran Ryan Harris filled in.

“Derek has really come along,” Brown said. “I think last week was the best week he’s had. I think he’ll really help us out. He’s a dominant force in the run game and his pass protection has really picked up the last couple of weeks. I’m excited to watch him work.”

In Saturday’s game, Newton played 58 snaps, or 72 percent of the total offensive plays. Starting left guard Wade Smith thought it was Newton’s best game too.

“If you watch the film of the Bengals game, he’s very physical in the run game,” Smith said. “He played well all around, pass game as well. So I think it’s going to help us going forward. I know that gave him a lot of confidence going forward as well, just to have a good game like that in the playoffs when the lights are on and it counts. And so we’re looking forward to seeing him perform on Sunday.”

The team’s second tight end, Graham, missed the game with a concussion. The Texans do quite a bit with two tight end sets, so Graham was missed, too.

“It’s extremely important,” Brown said about getting Graham back. “He’s an asset in the run game. His receiving ability will really help us out.”

Things didn’t go so well after the initial Patriots game. Including that loss to New England, the Texans lost three of their last four regular season games to stumble into the playoffs as the third seed. Now, they’ll have a chance to take on the team that sent them on a downward spiral. But this time, they’ll have a more complete team.
“We were a few guys short but at the same time, there were people who were capable of stepping up when we were down and so they were able to handle the situation,” Newton said. “Now that we’re back, we’re able to be a more complete team. Hopefully it will be a great game on Sunday.”