Mass. — The New England Patriots have completed a lot underneath Coach Invoice Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, however they discovered one thing new to attain on Saturday night time at Gillette Stadium. In outlasting the Houston Texans, 34-16, the Patriots set an N.F.L. report for convention dominance and used a uncommon efficiency by a operating again to get it.
The Patriots grew to become the primary staff within the Tremendous Bowl period to achieve the convention championship sport six years in a row. And operating again Dion Lewis grew to become the primary participant to attain touchdowns on a run, a reception and a kickoff return in a postseason sport.
It was sufficient to show a good sport into one other January rout, because the Patriots have performed for years within the divisional spherical. Within the earlier 5 seasons, New England gained every of its video games at this stage within the postseason, all at house, by a median of 16 factors. Accordingly, they had been 16-point favorites to win on Saturday, the biggest unfold for any playoff sport since 1998.
Houston, in the meantime, had by no means survived this spherical and had gotten right here by beating an Oakland Raiders staff that was compelled to begin its third-string quarterback. The final time the Texans performed in New England, the Patriots shut them out behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He was inactive on Saturday.
The starter this time, in fact, was Brady, who missed the primary sport with the Texans whereas serving a suspension associated to the deflation of footballs right here throughout the 2015 A.F.C. championship sport.
Brady was coming off a outstanding common season, averaging almost 300 passing yards per sport, with 28 touchdowns and two interceptions. He matched that interception whole on Saturday, however in the long run, it didn’t matter a lot.
Brady threw his first landing cross with 9 minutes 27 seconds left within the first quarter, discovering Lewis for 13 yards. The Texans then turned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Eric Rowe right into a sustained drive, amassing 4 first downs however settling for a Nick Novak area objective to make it 7-Three.
Novak’s ensuing kickoff fell to Lewis on the 2-yard line, however Lewis tore by the Texans, eluding a diving Robert Nelson and dashing untouched into the top zone. It was the primary postseason kickoff return for a landing in Patriots historical past and the second rating of the quarter for Lewis, who had no touchdowns within the common season.
At that time, the Texans most likely wanted one thing unusual to occur, and the Patriots supplied it. Brady’s first cross of the second quarter bounced off the fingers of extensive receiver Michael Floyd and into the arms of cornerback A. J. Bouye. Once more, the Texans might handle only a area objective, to make it 14-6.
And once more, the Patriots would assist them out.
This time, Lewis’s kickoff return went as poorly as potential. Akeem Dent pressured a fumble, and the Texans recovered on the New England 12-yard line. Two performs later, Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler discovered tight finish C. J. Fiedorowicz for a 10-yard landing strike.
The followers had purpose to anticipate a blowout, however with the Patriots’ lead minimize to 14-13, they went quiet. The following two drives introduced extra trigger for concern: Each ended with a sack and a punt. Even the Patriots’ final drive of the half was unfulfilling, ending with a subject purpose after three performs from contained in the 5-yard line.
On the Patriots’ second drive of the third quarter, although, Brady linked 4 instances with Julian Edelman, who completed with 137 yards and moved into eighth on the listing for postseason receptions in a profession. The drive ended with a 19-yard landing move to James White, and New England carried the 24-13 benefit into the fourth quarter.
But, after 5 seconds, Novak knocked by means of a 46-yard subject purpose, capitalizing on Andre Hal’s interception of Brady late within the third quarter. Novak’s kick made it a one-score recreation, at 24-16, however the Patriots’ protection quickly soothed any nervousness the gang may need felt.
With 13 minutes left within the fourth quarter, Osweiler fired to DeAndre Hopkins, who tipped the ball to Logan Ryan for an interception. Ryan returned it 23 yards to the Texans’ 6-yard line, a devastating blow for Houston. Two performs later, Lewis rumbled into the tip zone from 1 yard out.
Lewis, who was enjoying in his first profession postseason recreation, had scored three touchdowns: one receiving, one on a kickoff and one dashing. The final participant to do this in a recreation was Kansas Metropolis’s Tyreek Hill this season, and earlier than that, Chicago’s Gale Sayers in 1965.