FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Texans safety Corey Moore went up for the ball at the goal line, outjumping receiver Brandin Cooks to grab it in both hands. The defender came down with it — one foot, then the other — before his elbow crashed into the turf and the ball came out.
The Patriots’ drive was still alive.
Just like the play before, when Tom Brady was strip-sacked, but New England center David Andrews recovered it. The missed opportunities cost Houston when Brady drove the Patriots to the winning score with 23 seconds left Sunday and the defending Super Bowl champions won 36-33.
“We played our hearts out,” said Moore, who was also covering Cooks when he toe-tapped in the end zone for the game-winning, 25-yard touchdown two plays later. “I am trying to re-live the play and I could have done a lot of things a little bit differently.”
A five-time NFL champion who is still going strong at the age of 40, Brady earned his fifth ring in February with his greatest comeback yet: a rally from a 25-point, third-quarter deficit to win the first overtime game in Super Bowl history.
The victory over the Texans wasn’t nearly that improbable, but things didn’t look good for the Patriots when Houston took a 33-28 lead on Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 36-yard field goal with 2:24 left.
Starting at their own 25, the Patriots picked up a holding call and a couple of first downs before Brady coughed up the ball when he was hit by Marcus Gilchrist. Andrews came up with the ball, but New England lost 8 yards and 28 seconds on the play.
“We kept making it hard,” Brady said. “We had penalties and then the sack and the fumble and it just kept feeling like we were going backwards. We were running low on time.”
With 1 minute left, Brady aired out a jump ball near the goal line — giving Moore a chance to end it, but he couldn’t hold on. A quick hit to Danny Amendola picked up 27 yards, and then Brady found Cooks in the front corner of the end zone for the game-winner.
“What do you want me to say? It sucked,” Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. “They threw a touchdown, and we lost. Give them credit. They made the play. You want me to dissect it? We lost.”
The Texans fell to 1-2 despite a breakout performance by quarterback Deshaun Watson. In his second career start, the first-round draft pick completed 22 of 33 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
But he also had two interceptions, and the Texans managed four field goals and only two touchdowns on six trips inside the New England 30 yard-line. With a chance to put the game away on a third-and-1 on the Patriots’ 18, Lamar Miller was stuffed for no gain.
“We had too many field goals down there. And then we leave too much time on the clock,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He (Brady) is a tough guy to defend; he’s done it for a long time.”