Since 2011, it’s been like given that the New England Patriots were going to play in the AFC Championship game. Well, guess what? The Patriots are going back to the conference title game after spanking the Houston Texans 34-16 at Gillette Stadium. With this win the Patriots run their all-time postseason record to 30-19.
The Patriots (15-2) didn’t win this game in a cosmetically beautiful fashion, as their running game stalled and the passing game didn’t hit their stride until the second half. But the Patriots will take this win not matter how they got there.
Quarterback TOM BRADY wasn’t on his game accuracy-wise (18 of 38 for a 47.3 completion rate and 2 interceptions), but he did throw for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns. Two of those touchdown passes helped to distance the Patriots from the Texans in the first and third quarters.
Patriots running back DION LEWIS was on his game tonight as he scored three times (one rushing, one receiving, and one on a kickoff return), with two of those scores taking much of the fight out of the Texans. He finished the night with 193 all-purpose yards (41 yards rushing, 23 yards receiving, and 129 yards on kickoff returns).
As for the Texans (9-8) they never had a lead in this game. But in the first half and part of the third quarter, it seemed as if they were on their way to really challenging the Patriots to the end of this game. But those hopes died when the Patriots stopped turning the ball over and started scoring again.
Texans quarterback BROCK OSWEILER (23 of 40 for 198 yards, 1 touchdown pass and 3 interceptions) and the Texans’ comeback hopes were doomed by his three second half interceptions and a lack of consistency and big plays from his offensive mates.
Lewis scored the first points of the game for either team, when he took a screen pass and ran untouched down the left sideline for a 16-yard score. The Patriots took a 7-0 lead at the 9:27 mark of the first quarter.
Lewis on his next scoring play not only gave his team a big lead, but he also put himself in the Patriots record books. Late in the first quarter, he took NICK NOVAK’s kickoff at the NE 2-yard line. Lewis then took off down and near the left sideline. After that, he cut back to his right and raced down the right sideline where he had Texans linebacker BRIAN PETERS on his tail. Lewis then lost Peters near the HOU 40-yard line where the running back then sped untouched into the end zone. That play gave the Patriots a 14-3 lead.
That 98-yard kickoff return by Lewis is now the longest kickoff return in Patriots playoff history, besting the 80-yard kickoff return by former Patriot ELLIS HOBBS against the Indianapolis Colts back on January 21, 2007 (from the 2006 season). The difference though between Hobbs’ return and Lewis’ return, is that Lewis scored on his kickoff return.
Later in the first half, the Texans gave themselves another chance to keep this game close. Tight end C.J. FIEDOROWICZ got behind the Patriots defense for a near back corner of the end zone 10-yard scoring pass. At the 10:49 mark of the score moved to 14-13 New England.
But the third quarter saw the Patriots add to their lead, when running back JAMES WHITE beat Texans linebacker BENARDRICK MCKINNEY for a catch and a touchdown from 19 yards out. At the 9:09 mark of the third quarter the Patriots saw their lead go to 24-13.
Lewis took care of his third touchdown of the game, when he forced his way into the end zone from 1-yard out. That touchdown run came off the heels of a LOGAN RYAN interception two plays before. At the 12:16 mark of the fourth quarter the Patriots had a 31-16 lead.
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