Final score: Patriots 34, Texans 16
The Texans’ final drive ended in Brock Osweiler’s third interception of the second half. It was a fitting end to their season. The Patriots will move on to the AFC Championship, where they will host the winner of the Chiefs-Steelers game.
Fourth quarter (6:37): Patriots 34, Texans 16
The Patriots got a scare when Martellus Bennett went down clutching his knee, but then he jogged off and re-entered the game a couple plays later. Dion Lewis fumbled the ball, which was recovered by his own offensive lineman. The Pats tacked on a 43-yard field goal, but not before Bill Belichick demanded a “TIME THE F*** OUT”:
Fourth quarter (12:16): Patriots 31, Texans 16
Houston’s defense stopped the Patriots again, but Brock Osweiler threw a pick on the Texans’ next play. Dion Lewis ran it up the gut for a 1-yard score, his third touchdown of the night. Lewis became the first player in postseason history to score a rushing TD, receiving TD, and kick return TD in the same game.
Fourth quarter (14:51): Patriots 24, Texans 16
Nick Novak tweaked his back earlier in the game, but it didn’t make any difference. He nailed a 46-yard field goal to make it a one-score game again.
Third quarter: Patriots 24, Texans 13
For the first time all season, Tom Brady was picked off twice in a game. This time, it was cornerback Andre Hal, setting the Texans up with good field position again as the third quarter came to a close.
Third quarter (2:02): Patriots 24, Texans 13
Tom Brady threw a tantrum after Jadeveon Clowney got to him again and the refs didn’t throw a flag. The Texans got the ball soon after, and were putting together a nice drive. Brock Osweiler threw perhaps the best pass of his life on third down ... and then rookie Will Fuller totally beefed it:
The Texans punted.
Third quarter (9:09): Patriots 24, Texans 13
After trading punts, the Patriots put together a very Patriots drive. Tom Brady was clinical, connecting with Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan and then finding James White for a 19-yard touchdown on the nine-play, 90-yard drive.
Halftime: Patriots 17, Texans 13
The Texans’ top-ranked defense was giving the Patriots fits and Jadeveon Clowney nearly knocked Tom Brady right out of his Uggs on this hit. But then Brady found Julian Edelman for a 48-yard gain that might have been offensive pass interference?
The Patriots continued to move down the field and then the Houston defense made its stand and stopped New England on three straight plays at the goal line. The Patriots decided they wanted points, so Stephen Gostkowski added a 19-yard field goal right before halftime.
Second quarter (10:49): Patriots 14, Texans 13
This time, Dion Lewis not only didn’t score on the kickoff return — he fumbled, giving the Texans great field position. They finally got a touchdown out of it, too. Brock Osweiler hit C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 10-yard score and suddenly, we’ve got a game.
Second quarter (11:39): Patriots 14, Texans 6
A.J. Bouye picked off Tom Brady early in the second quarter — just the third interception Brady has thrown all season. The Texans turned it into a 27-yard field goal.
First quarter: Patriots 14, Texans 3
And just like that, the Texans are up by double digits. Dion Lewis scored his second touchdown of the game on a 98-yard kickoff return, the first kickoff return touchdown in Patriots playoff history.
First quarter (1:15): Patriots 7, Texans 3
The Texans almost had another three-and-out, but Eric Rowe was hit with a 15-yard penalty, giving Houston new life. Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller helped the Texans move the ball down the field. However, they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal.
First quarter (9:27): Patriots 7, Texans 0
The two teams traded three-and-outs to start the game, and then the Texans got the ball back ... for another three-and-out. Aided by a pass interference penalty, the Patriots went 65 yards in two plays. Dion Lewis scored a 13-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run.
Before the game
That’s why the Texans are a historic playoff underdog for Saturday’s rematch in Foxborough.
Brock Osweiler hopes to reverse that outcome and keep Houston’s season alive — but if he can’t do it, Tom Savage will be available. Savage came on to replace an ineffective quarterback in Week 15 and led the team to a comeback win over the Jaguars. One week later, his victory over the Bengals secured an AFC South title.
His tenure as starter was short-lived. A concussion in the final game of the season kept him out of the team’s Wild Card game, but Oakland’s quarterback woes helped push the Texans into the Divisional round of the 2017 playoffs.
Osweiler was capable, if unspectacular, in his return to the top spot on the depth chart. He threw for 168 yards and a touchdown in a game where he wasn’t asked to do much; Houston ran the ball 44 times while attempting just 25 passes. He’ll have to be better Saturday — and if he isn’t, Savage will be waiting to step in and retake the reins.
The Patriots had quarterback issues of their own earlier in the season, but Tom Brady’s return from a four-game suspension fixed that. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett teamed up to push New England to a 3-1 start which included a dominant win over the Texans.
Somehow, New England just got better from there. Tom Brady has had an MVP-caliber season at age 39, leading his team to a 11-1 record behind center. He set a league record for touchdown-to-interception ratio after throwing 28 touchdowns while being picked off only twice. More impressively, he’s done it despite a rag-tag group of targets at wideout and tight end.
Rob Gronkowski only caught three of those touchdowns thanks to a back injury that will keep him out of the postseason. That’s left unheralded receivers like Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola to pick up the slack.
New addition Michael Floyd impressed in a Week 17 win over the Dolphins, and his steady play could be a boost for an offense that always needs new weapons. Whether or not he’ll be able to perform as well against the league’s No. 4 passing defense is another question. If Houston wants to win Saturday night, it needs a big performance from a unit that’s been dominant in 2016-17 despite missing J.J. Watt for most of the season.