Final score, 42-14 Patriots: A few kneeldowns from Mallett, and this one’s over. There will be no doubting which team is tops right now in the AFC.

Of course, the Patriots won’t be able to savor this one for too long, as the Niners come to town next weekend. But for now, the Pats have made the statement that they’re not messing around.

Fourth quarter, 2:00, 42-14 Patriots: That was as meaningless a touchdown as these eyes ever seen. Alas, T.J. Yate’s 1-yard plunge counts, and the Texans now trail by just 28 points with two minutes to play. Hang on to your seat for this dramatic conclusion!

Fourth quarter, 3:00, 42-7 Patriots: Visanthe Shiancoe just let a Ryan Mallett pass bounce right off his hands and into the arms of a diving Shiloh Keo, which is a really cool name. The Texans take over deep in Patriots territory, looking to add some points to cut the lead to just four touchdowns.

Fourth quarter, 4:12, 42-7 Patriots: It’s a backup quarterback battle at the moment. This sucker is all but over.

Fourth quarter, 7:23, 42-7 Patriots: It’s an all-out blowout here at Gillette.

The Texans showed absolutely no fight or willpower on that drive, allowing the Patriots to drive 68 yards on 10 plays to make this one a complete laugher.

Fourth quarter, 14:15, 35-7 Patriots: Well, that was a weird one. Brady dumped the ball off to Danny Woodhead, who broke two tackles in the open field and scampered toward the end zone. However, J.J. Watt was hot in pursuit and knocked the ball out of Woodhead’s hands. Fortunately for the Patriots, Lloyd was Johnny on the spot and pounced on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Hey, they all count.

WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checking in with his highs and lows from the third quarter:

The Highs:

Pats hit on a big play with Tom Brady connectic with Donte Stallworth for 63 yards and a touchdown. Welcome back, Donte.

The Pats’ defense is getting the job done, forcing another three-and-out thanks to great plays by Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Arrington.

Pats end the quarter with Tom Brady on a 6-yard scramble for a first down. He then got up and pumped up the crowd.

The Lows:

Tom seemed to be trying for the home run on every passing play, and the offense struggled a bit as a result.

The Texans finally got on  the board after a 30-yard passing play from Matt Schaub to James Casey. That led to a 1-yard run by Arian Foster.

Brady gets took a big sack on third-and-3 by Whitney Mercilus.  Mercilus would have the best name in pro football if his first name wasn’t Whitney.

End of third quarter, 28-7 Patriots: The Patriots are driving, with Tom Brady ending the quarter with a 6-yard run on third-and-6 to move the chains and set up a first down on the Houston 27.

After the run, a fired-up Brady showed his emotion and fired up the crowd, and they all responded by showering the quarterback with “M-V-P” chants.

Third quarter, 3:30, 28-7 Patriots: It’s been a rough year for Kyle Arrington, but man is he having a breakout game tonight.

He just broke up another third-down pass, forcing a change of possession for the third time tonight. He’ll definitely have a gold star sticker on his homework in the morning.

Third quarter, 5:00, 28-7 Patriots: Well, the Texans defense holds, and we still have a ballgame.

On third-and-3, Whitney Mercilus ran free off the left side of the defense and clobbered Brady. The QB held onto the ball, but he took a real shot. Zoltan Mesko was back out there for his fifth punt of the evening. His season high for the season is six punts, against the Jets here at Gillette.

Third quarter, 6:12, 28-7 Patriots: The Houston Texans are on the board.

With the help of a questionable pass interference call on Kyle Arrington, the Texans drove 88 yards for their first score of the night, with Arian Foster doing the honors from the 1-yard line. The Texans got the ball deep into the red zone when fullback James Casey was left uncovered by the Patriots. He got the ball down to the 2, and Foster can punch it in from there.

A long scoring drive from Brady and the running backs here could really ice this one heading into the fourth quarter, but a stop from the Houston defense could make this one interesting.

Third quarter, 9:49, 28-0 Patriots: When the offense can’t seem to move the ball, why not try a deep ball to Donte Stallworth?

The veteran receiver, just added this week, ran a deep route up the seam with Brandon Harris in fairly tight coverage. Brady lobbed a deep ball in, Stallworth hauled it in, and he then broke away from Harris and scampered to the goal line. Quintin Demps caught him around the 3-yard line, but Stallworth showed that he’s been doing his lifting in his down time by powering across the goal line for the score.

Despite holding a 21-0 lead, the Patriots really needed that. Their offense had stalled out on four straight drives before that, allowing the Texans to hold onto hope. Now with just 25 minutes left in the game, the Texans are going to have to get desperate.

Third quarter, 10:54, Patriots 21-0: The Texans just can’t move the ball and are forced to punt yet again after coming up a yard short of the sticks on third down. Credit Alfonzo Dennard for making a great tackle on Andre Johnson on the play, and to Brandon Deaderick for blowing up a second down run that lost two yards. The Patriots’ D-line is having a great game. Perhaps they didn’t enjoy listening to the weeklong hype of J.J. Watt.

Third quarter, 13:03, Patriots 21-0: There’s no reason to panic, but four straight punts by the Patriots doesn’t exactly have this place buzzing.

Brady just launched a deep pass to Donte Stallworth, but to no avail, and Mesko was back out there to punt. Marquice Cole did a great job breaking down on Keshawn Martin, a holding call on Houston will set them back to their own 9-yard line.

Aqib Talib is not out there on the field, as he’s questionable to return with a hip injury.

Third quarter, 15:00, Patriots 21-0: Man, these halftimes fly by. A brief celebration of Matt Light’s career, a crazy Pepsi promotion with a blindfolded man running around the field, and we’re now under way in the second half.

WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with his highs and lows from the second quarter:

The Highs
The Pats kept it rolling to open the quarter. They were just carving the Texans defense up. They went 70 yards in a little over 3 minutes on this drive and end it with a 4-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez. He got his second touchdown of the night.

Vince Wilfork batted down pass on third down to force an early punt. The big fella is having a fabulous game.

The Pats came up with stops on two fourth-down attempts. Kyle Arrington knocked away a pass on the first one, and Jerod Mayo pressured Schaub on the second.

The Lows
The Pats’ offense has stalled out a bit, ending the half with three punts.

Halftime, 21-0 Patriots: A Patriots punt and a shortened Texans drive, and the teams head to halftime with the Pats ahead 21-0.

Probably the chief concern for the Patriots right now is Aqib Talib’s left hip. If he’s unable to play, the Pats will need someone else to chase around Andre Johnson in the second half, which is no easy task. Still, the Pats won’t be too concerned, as Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard are having solid games thus far.

The Patriots’ offense, meanwhile, has punted on three straight drives in which they’ve gained a total of nine yards. What looked to be a romp not too long ago could tighten if things turn slightly in the second half, so don’t go to bed just yet.

Second quarter, 1:52, 21-0 Patriots: The Patriots come up with a fourth-down stop, thanks to Jerod Mayo shooting up the middle untouched and pressuring Schaub to throw it to nobody.

Second quarter, 1:55, 21-0 Patriots: Good news, bad news for the Patriots.

The good news is Aqib Talib beautifully broke up a third-down pass intended for Andre Johnson over the middle. The bad news is that Talib immediately grabbed his hip upon hitting the turf and needed attention from the trainers. He walked off the field, which is a good sign, but his status for the rest of the game covering Andre Johnson will be important to monitor.

Second quarter, 2:00, 21-0 Patriots: The Texans will face a third-and-10 from the Patriots’ 43 on the other side of the two-minute warning.

Second quarter, 3:26, 21-0 Patriots: The scoring barrage has slowed, as Aaron Hernandez was called for offensive pass interference to negate a chain-moving third-down catch by Brandon Lloyd. The Pats couldn’t convert the ensuing long third-down attempt, and Zoltan Mesko was back out there.

Mesko launched an ugly knuckleball of a kick after picking up the snap off the turf, and the Texans will take over at their 27.

Second quarter, 4:44, 21-0 Patriots: Kyle Arrington comes up big again, this time knocking a ball out of Kevin Walter’s hands on fourth down. It should have been a catch to move the chains deep into Patriots territory, but Arrington did just enough to knock the ball away.

The Pats’ offense now gets back to work.

Second quarter, 8:32, 21-0 Patriots: Well, the Patriots couldn’t tack on the points, as Houston forced a punt after Brady was walloped on his third-down pass attempt. Texans take over on their 11 after a good punt by Zoltan Mesko.

Second quarter, 9:51, 21-0 Patriots: Even the defense is playing with swagger now, with the Patriots forcing a quick Texans drive that barely lasted a minute.

On second-and-4, Jerod Mayo absolutely blew up right tackle Derek Newton, knocking the right tackle onto his back in the Texans’ backfield and blowing up the play. On third down, Schaub’s pass was batted down at the line by Vince Wilfork, who is having an MVP-type performance early on.

Welker made a fair catch on the punt at the Pats’ 34, and the offense will take the field looking to tack on 7 more.

Second quarter, 11:01, 21-0 Patriots: With AFC supremacy on the line, the Patriots came out to play and they came out to make a statement. With a 21-0 lead early in the second, they’re certainly doing that.

The latest score comes when the Texans couldn’t get their defense in order on the goal line, leaving Aaron Hernandez all alone split out wide left. Brady took the snap from the 4-yard line and whipped it out to Hernandez. The tight end slipped around one defender and waltzed into the end zone for his second score of the night.

Now, it should be noted the Patriots wouldn’t have been there if not for a horrible pass interference call on Danieal Manning on a pass that was certainly not catchable for Wes Welker. Alas, those are the calls you see in the NFL these days, and the Patriots took full advantage: 21-0 just 19 minutes into this one.

WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with his highs and lows from the first quarter:

The Highs:

After their slow start, the Pats defense got the Texans to punt and on the return, Wes Welker went 31 yards to give the Pats good field position. The Pats then got down the field by using Stevan Ridley on the ground. Brady hit Welker for 25 yards and the drive ended with a 7-yard passing play, Brady to Aaron Hernandez.

The Texans got to the Pats 24 and tried for it all but Devin McCourty made the interception at the goal line. The Pats made the most of getting the turnover, as Brady connected on passes to Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez. Then he connected on a 37-yard play-action pass to Brandon Lloyd for a touchdown.

The Pats defense ended the quarter the right way. Matt Schaub was on the ground and the Texans punted the ball away.

The Lows:

First official play from scrimmage and the Texans run the ball with Arian Foster for 15 yards. The very next play the Patriots called a time out. Weird start.

With the Pats moving the ball on the goal line, Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball. Aaron Hernandez got the recovery, which was lucky.

Texans moved the ball rather easily on their second drive, with passing plays of 14, 13, and 24 yards.  The Pats have to tighten up.

End of first quarter, 14-0 Patriots: After one quarter, the Patriots lead 14-0, and they’ll be taking over at their own 30 after the defense forced another Houston punt.

The defense held Arian Foster to just 21 yards on seven carries, and Schaub is 5-for-7 for 75 yards and a pick.

Brady, meanwhile, is 6-for-8 for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Ridley has 19 yards on five carries, and Lloyd leads all receivers with two grabs for 51 yards and a TD.

First quarter, 2:49, 14-0 Patriots: Oh, the power of play-action.

Among his many talents, Tom Brady excels at giving ball fakes on playaction fakes, and it was on full display on that drive.

On a 13-yard pass to Hernandez, Brady faked one linebacker so badly that he futilely chased after Stevan Ridley, passing up a gift of a sack. On the very next play, Brady faked a stretch play to the right side to Ridley, and the entire defense bit hard, leaving Brandon Lloyd free to run wild on the left side. Brady lobbed a deep bomb, Lloyd hauled it in, and the Pats lead 14-0.

That drive was made possible by a typically amazing sideline catch by Lloyd on a third-and-10 earlier in the drive from the Patriots’ 19. Danny Woodhead also had an 18-yard catch-and-run in which he faked out Darrly Sharpton so badly that the lineback fell over in coverage.

First quarter, 5:30, 7-0 Patriots: I believe that’s what they call the bend-but-don’t-break?

The Patriots’ defense was getting shredded all the way down the field, until the Texans had a second-and-8 from the New England 21. Schaub tried going over the middle to Kevin Walter in the end zone but didn’t see Devin McCourty. The corner-turned-safety showed great instincts by breaking to the ball and picking it off at its highest point and then returning it out to the 19-yard line.

It goes without saying, but that was a massive play by McCourty to stop that drive and keep Houston off the board.

First quarter, 9:27, 7-0 Patriots: Aaron Hernandez came ready to play on the big stage.

The tight end ran after and pounced on a Stevan Ridley fumble inside the 10-yard line, then caught a touchdown from Tom Brady on the very next play to put the Patriots up 7-0 early on.

The drive was saved when Brandon Harris was whistled for defensive holding on a third-down incompletion from Brady to Matthew Slater. Wes Welker also made a catch that was eerily similar to his infamous drop in the Super Bowl, setting up the Patriots on the 3-yard line.

That’s the 45th straight game in which Brady has thrown a touchdown, if you’re keeping track at home.

First quarter, 12:54: The Patriots’ defense starts things off with a big third-down stop, and Wes Welker shows he’s pretty good at punt returning with a 31-yard return to set up the Patriots at their own 44-yard line.

The stop was made on third down when Kyle Arrington had great coverage on Lestar Jean burning up the sideline. Arrington disrupted Matt Schaub’s pass just enough to make the catch difficult for Jean, and he couldn’t haul it in.

First quarter, 14:14: After a 13-yard gain by Arian Foster was wiped out due to illegal formation, Foster took the ensuing play for 15 yards to the left side. When the two teams lined up for the next play, Bill Belichick took a very early timeout. Clearly something didn’t look right to Bill, and he wanted to stop it before any more damage was done.

First quarter, 15:00: Gostkowski’s kick went deep into the end zone, and the Houston offense will take over at the 20-yard line.

8:38 p.m.: The Patriots won the toss and deferred to the second half, as they always do when they win the toss. Kickoff is in one minute.

8:30 p.m.: The Texans were welcomed by a smattering of boos from the Gillette crowd, while the Patriots took the field to fireworks, Minuteman shots and a loud cheer from the mostly full stands.

We’re less than 10 minutes from kickoff.

7:56 p.m.: WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with a few pregame thoughts:

Weather a concern?

Something to pay attention to tonight would be the weather. The tarp was down for most of the afternoon because of the rain but it is now removed and the rain has let up. The weather is actually pleasant for a December night but it’s humid out. The slick conditions could cause ball security issues for both sides and wearing the right cleats will be something the players want to make sure they do.

The rain is supposed to be off and on throughout the night but not really heavy.

Also, I’m not sure if there was a break on the flights but the Houston Texans’ fan base is here and they are well-represented at this game. From the pregame show until now, there have been many fans of the Texans that are here in  the parking lot and now in the stadium. Apparently a trip to New England in December was high on the Christmas list to many in the Lone Star State.

Hello Shiancoe?

Here are the Patriot players inactive for tonight’s game against the Houston Texans.

S    Derrick Martin
RB  James Develin
OL  Nick McDonald
OL  Marcus Zusevics
TE  Rob Gronkowski
DE  Jake Bequette
DL  Ron Brace

The most important thing about this list are the players that are not on it. For one, there’s no Visanthe Shiancoe. Maybe now they will use him in this game and we can see what he can bring to the table. Also Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly are a go. That means the Pats will have their No. 1 offensive line out there on the field. Chandler Jones will also play after weeks of resting that ankle. It will be interesting to see how disruptive he can be.

They just signed Donte Stallworth and he is right in the lineup.  Finally, Brandon Bolden is off suspension and right back into the Pats lineup.  They are playing this game to win.  Their best players are all active.  Maybe they want to make sure the road through the AFC still has to make a stop here in Foxboro.

7:53 p.m.: With Julian Edelman out for the year, it will be interesting to note who will handle most of the punt returning duties. Wes Welker is the only other player on the roster to handle punts this season, so he’ll definitely see an increase in the role.

During warmups, Welker caught punts alongside Aaron Hernandez and Patrick Chung, so that’s likely the pecking order. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see until the game starts to see what the plan is, but that was the noteworthy nugget from warmups.

7:31 p.m.: If you’d like to read what Matt Light had to say, check out this story right here.

7:16 p.m.: The Patriots released their inactive list, and it did not include both Chandler Jones and Logan Mankins. That means both players will be suited up and ready to go when this game kicks off in a little over an hour.

Of note for the Patriots, Nick McDonald is inactive, thereby taking a rotation player out of the mix should any linemen suffer injuries during the game. That’s particularly noteworthy considering Dan Connolly left last week’s game when his back flared up in Miami. He’ll be in there tonight.

For the Texans, cornerback Jonathan Joseph is active, which was expected. He hasn’t played since Nov. 18.

7:02 p.m.: Donald Trump has Twitter. Right now, he probably wishes he doesn’t. Though when you think about it, referring to Bill Belichick as “Bob Belichick” probably doesn’t register on the top 10 list of embarrassing things Trump has tweeted.

6:47 p.m.: Matt Light certainly hasn’t lost any of his sense of humor in retirement.

The longtime left tackle and three-time Super Bowl champion will be honored at halftime tonight, so he took a few minutes to chat with the media just now. He said he’s more relaxed now, and he doesn’t miss the early-morning meetings when the coach would review all of their mistakes from the previous games. I’ll put together some of his quotes and post a link to the story shortly.

In other news, fans are starting to trickle in to watch warmups, and the clock is ticking till kickoff.

6:30 p.m.: Hello from a soggy Gillette Stadium, about two hours before kickoff for what is sure to be an entertaining showdown between two AFC powerhouses.

As some Texans players warm up on the Gillette turf (which had been covered by a tarp until a few minutes ago), it’s worth noting that a light rain is currently falling in the area. It’s nothing too heavy, but there’s a definite fog in the area. It seems like the weather won’t be too much of a factor, but it’s something work keeping an eye on to see if it gets any worse.

A light rain is falling on Gillette Stadium about two hours before kickoff. (Photo via Michael Hurley/CBS Boston)

A light rain is falling on Gillette Stadium about two hours before kickoff. (Photo via Michael Hurley/CBS Boston)

I’ll have the inactives posted here as soon as they’re announced. I’ll be keeping an eye on Chandler Jones and Logan Mankins, specifically, to see if they’re able to play. Against the 11-1 Texans, the Patriots will need them.

For now, Matt Light is about to talk to the media, and I’ll pass along any nuggets from him. He’ll be honored at halftime tonight.


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