The New England Patriots were coming off of the high of a comeback win over the Denver Broncos, the Houston Texans on the low of nine straight losses. Everything was set up for a trap game, and that's nearly what it was for the Pats. Despite a valiant effort by the Texans to keep it close and lead the game in the fourth quarter, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski came up huge to give the Pats a 34-31 win in Houston.
Despite missing from 55 yards in the first half, head coach Bill Belichick showed no hesitation in giving his kicker some crucial chances in the fourth quarter as his team trailed by three. Gostkowski did the rest, hitting from 53 yards to tie the game and then again from 53 to give New England the lead with 3:12 left in the game.
Houston had one final drive to try and at least tie the game, but eventually turned it over on downs and lost its 10th game in a row. The Texans drop to 2-10 and will at least stay in good position to pick first overall next April.
Meanwhile, the Patriots stay alive in the fight for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. New England improves to 9-3 on the year and almost certainly will tie with either the Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs by the evening, as those two teams face off in the afternoon.
Barring a tie, the top seed after 12 games in the AFC will be 10-2, leaving the Patriots just a single game back with the head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver. But before they can worry about any of that, they'll need to do a better job of putting away bad teams like the Texans.
Thanks to their kicker, they were able to just do that on Sunday.
Fantasy Studs and Duds
Tom Brady threw for 371 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, with 127 yards and a touchdown going to tight end Rob Gronkowski. On the ground, LeGarrette Blount had 44 yards and a touchdown. Shane Vereen had just 38 rushing yards, but added 37 receiving yards with a score. Danny Amendola was held to just 54 yards and no scores.
Ben Tate came up huge for the Texans in the close loss, rushing for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Andre Johnson had eight catches and 121 yards, giving him 900 catches overall in his career. He becomes the 15th player to reach that mark and is the second-fastest in NFL history to 900 catches.
Case Keenum had 272 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception, but did have his first career rushing touchdown.
It appears that both teams come out of this relatively healthy. Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins left briefly with an apparent hip injury, but returned.
Did They Cover?
The Patriots were nine-point favorites, according to OddsShark.com, so they did not cover.
Texans at Jaguars, Thursday, Dec. 5 at 8:25 p.m. ET
Patriots vs Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. ET