That New England Patriots followed the same formula all season long: overwhelm the opponent with oodles of points. Week to week, 30 points here, 40 points there, they even topped 50 points on two occasions. It was the same formula Tom Brady and Co. used to beat the Houston Texans in Week 14, and it was the same approach New England used to beat the Texans, 41-28, in an AFC Divisional round game on Sunday afternoon.
Houston opened the scoring with a first quarter field goal. The Patriots started slow, punting on their first two drives of the first quarter before running back Shane Vereen finally found the end zone to put New England on the board. New England added 10 more points, including a receiving score from Brady to Vereen, before Houston got back on the board with an Arian Foster touchdown in the second quarter.
Shane Graham hit 55-yard field goal, the longest postseason shot at Gillette Stadium, to send the Texans into the locker room at the half trailing by only four points. It wouldn't stay close for very long.
New England scored three unanswered touchdowns after the half, a Stevan Ridley rushing touchdown and a pair of touchdown passes from Brady. Brandon Lloyd caught one of those, and Vereen scored his second receiving touchdown of the game before Houston finally put more points on the board.
Houston managed to make it closer on the score board with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns. At that point, however, the margin was a mere formality for bettors and a few Texans fans clinging to hope.
Box score hero: Tom Brady had a nice game, as usual, throwing three touchdown passes and accumulating 344 yards with no picks and completing 25 of his 40 throws. Second-year running back Shane Vereen was the real surprise. He rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 83 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He tied the team's record of three touchdowns in a playoff game, co-owned by Curtis Martin and Rob Gronkowski.
Injury report: New England suffered a particularly costly loss in tight end Rob Gronkowski. He tumbled on his left arm, the one he broke previously this season. Gronk will miss the rest of the postseason, and early indications are that he broke it again.
Did they cover? The Patriots were big favorites in this one, with most books having a line somewhere between 9.5 and 10.5 points.
Next: For the second year in a row, the Patriots are going to the AFC Championship, also facing the Ravens in that game for the second year in a row. Baltimore beat the Patriots in Week 3 with 27-yard game-winning field goal right with just two seconds left on the clock. The Patriots found their stride after that, losing just two more times the rest of the season.