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Patriots Live Blog: Pats Beat Texans 41-28, Advance To AFC Championship Game

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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Final, Patriots 41, Texans 28: That’s it, it’s all over, and the Patriots outlast the Texans 41-28 at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens will be here next Sunday night, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Fourth Quarter, 1:14, 41-28 Patriots: It’s all over but for the celebrating, after Stephen Gostkowski drills a 38-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 41-28.

Fourth quarter, 2:00, 38-28 Patriots: The Patriots are driving with one of those perfect clock-killing campaigns. They’ll face a third-and-11 from the Houston 19-yard line on the other side of the two-minute warning. The Texans are without timeouts. They’re in field goal range, and that’ll essentially ice the game.

Fourth quarter, 5:08, 38-28 Patriots: The Texans kicked a nearly perfect onside kick, but the Patriots got a little lucky on the bounces and recovered it.

Fourth quarter, 5:11, 38-28 Patriots: It’s eerily quiet in Gillette after the Texans just capped off a 4:47 drive that ended with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. And we now have ourselves a football game.

The touchdown came on fourth-and-goal from the 1, with Schaub hitting Foster in the end zone. Andre Johnson made an incredible catch on the two-point conversion, as well.

Fourth quarter, 7:55, 38-20 Patriots: According to Pro Football Talk and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Rob Gronkowski’s season is over due to a broken arm.

That’s a huge loss for New England, but they have done well without Gronkowski. It defies logic, but they’ve scored 38 points in this one, and they went 5-1 without him at the end of the year.

There will be plenty more analysis after the game, but that’s the news for now.

Fourth quarter, 9:58, 38-20 Patriots: The Pats looked to be driving again, with Aaron Hernandez catching a pass over the middle and getting the ball near midfield. However, he was penalized for pass interference and the Pats couldn’t convert the ensuing long third down. Zoltan Mesko’s punt took a Patriots bounce, setting up the Texans at their own 21.

Fourth quarter, 11:35, 38-20 Patriots: Well, the Texans still have life.

Matt Schaub lobbed his best ball of the night to the front corner of the end zone, but DeVier Posey bobbled the ball before coming down with it. He was ruled to have been out of bounds when he finally gained possession, but the play was overturned after a Gary Kubiak challenge.

The Texans now need to hope for a quick three-and-out, a quick score, an onside kick, another score, another onside kick and another score in order to take a lead.

Fourth quarter, 13:07, 38-13: That is what they call a swing.

The ruling on the field stood on the Foster run, but it didn’t matter. The Patriots forced a failed fourth-down conversion anyway, and on the very first offensive play, Brady lofted a beautiful pass to Shane Vereen, who was lined up as a receiver and ran a go along the left sideline. The running back made an incredible over-the-shoulder grab as he crossed the goal line.

It was Vereen’s third touchdown of the night — one rushing, two receiving — and Brady’s third as well.

It’s now a full-on rout, with the Pats up by 25 points with 13:07 left. Bring on Baltimore?

Fourth quarter, 14:18, 31-13 Patriots: The fourth quarter starts with a bang. Arian Foster got the call on a pitch on fourth-and-1 from the Texans’ own 23-yard line. Foster had plenty of room to pick up the yard, but he didn’t capitalize. Aqib Talib submarined the running back, and it looked close. The officials gave the Texans the yard on the play, but Bill Belichick challenged the spot. We’re awaiting word on that.

Here are Levan Reid’s thoughts from the third quarter:

Pats start the quarter and they immediately get on the board. A 40-yard passing play to Aaron Hernandez was the big play here. Stevan Ridley wraps up the drive with an 8-yard run into the end zone. Seven plays and a touchdown to start the half. Hernandez with five catches for 71 yards early in the third.

Pats defense held on the Texans’ first possession of the quarter. They overcome a terrible call that took away a fumble to get a three-and-out. Justin Francis chased Schaub off his spot on the third down play.

Texans were later moving the ball, getting a swing pass to Arian Foster for28 yards and then they hit on another big play to Andre Johnson for 22 yards. They continued to move the ball and then the Pats defense stepped up. Rob Ninkovich with a leaping interception to stop the drive and get the ball back to Tom Brady. The Pats offense makes the most of the opportunity. Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez for 14 yards.  Stevan Ridley with a 23 yard run and then Brady to Brandon Lloyd for a 5 yard touchdown.  The Pats are starting to run away with the game.

Third quarter, 1:21, 31-13 Patriots: Just as it started to look like a three-man show with Hernandez, Ridley and Welker, Brandon Lloyd checks in.

The receiver picked up seven yards near midfield, and after Ridley gained 28 yards on the next two runs, Lloyd was left in single coverage at the 5-yard line. Brady took the snap, fired a bullet to Lloyd, and the receiver beat his man into the end zone for six.

It was Lloyd’s first ever postseason touchdown (this is his first postseason game) and it was Brady’s 40th career postseason touchdown. He’s just the third player to ever throw 40 postseason scores.

Third quarter, 4:14, 24-13 Patriots: The Patriots were the best in the league in terms of turnover differential this season, and they just got their first takeaway of the day.

Rob Ninkovich dropped into coverage on third down, and Schaub had no clue he’d be there, throwing it right to No. 50 in blue.

The Patriots take over at their own 37. That was, obviously, a huge play, with the Texans driving to potentially make it a one-score game.

Third quarter, 8:50, 24-13 Patriots: Shane Vereen ran an out on third-and-5, and he was open, but Brady never looked. The quarterback scrambled and eventually threw the ball to Vereen, but it bounced before reaching him, and the Patriots had to punt.

It was a great punt, though, with Mesko kicking the ball to the boundary at the 10-yard line. Matt Schaub and Co. have a long way to go.

Third quarter, 9:47, 24-13 Patriots: The Pats forced a fumble and recovered, but the officials ruled that Owen Daniels’ forward progress had been stopped prior to the fumble. That’s a questionable call, to say the least, but Justin Francis forced Schaub to scramble and throw the ball out of bounds on the ensuing third down, so the Patriots forced a punt.

The questionable call (which could not have been challenged) cost the Patriots a good 50 yards of field position, but we’ll see if it matters for Brady and the offense. It’s been mostly short passes thus far (Welker bomb aside) and a steady dose of Ridley runs. We’ll see if that continues.

Third quarter, 11:30, 24-13 Patriots: The Pats begin the second half with a bang, thanks to huge plays by Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, in a drive that eventually ends with a Stevan Ridley touchdown run.

The play of the drive came from Aaron Hernandez, who broke free from his defender, and then nearly outran everyone on a cutback to the middle of the field for a 40-yard gain.

The Patriots did an outstanding job blocking on the Ridley touchdown run. Even an unathletic guy like Wes Welker could have run that one in for a touchdown.

Third quarter, 14:54, 17-13 Patriots: A short kick to Matthew Slater gets the second half started. First-and-10 Patriots at their own 31.

Halftime, 17-13 Patriots: If the Pats don’t win this game, you might have to look at the sequence we just witnessed as the biggest reason why.

The Patriots got the ball at their own 26-yard line with 1:09 left in the half, with two timeouts in their pocket. They ran it up the middle for four yard on first down, then let a chunk of time run off the clock before running their next play, which was a bounced pass to Aaron Hernandez. With the clock stopped, the Patriots ran another passing play on third down, but Barwin and Watt swarmed Brady and forced a bad pass.

The Texans got the ball at their own 38, and drove just into field goal range before half. Shayne Graham drilled a 55-yarder, the Pats lead just 17-13.

WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in here with his second quarter thoughts:

One Patriots drive stalled because of something weird — a personal foul call on Brandon Lloyd for throwing the ball back to the ref and hitting him in the face. The Pats settled for a 37-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.

The Pats’ defense forced two punts early in the quarter. Steve Gregory with two big plays on these sets of downs. The Pats defense is playing solid. They are getting beat by Andre Johnson and that is it. That plan seemed to be working.

The Pats made it look easy on their second possession of the quarter. Tom Brady hits Wes Welker on a 47=yard passing play that put the ball at the 8-yard line. Then it was Brady to Vereen for eight yards and pay dirt. Welker has 6 catches for 120 yards in the first half … so much for calling him a non-athlete. The 120 yards is a postseason high for Wes and we have a ton of game to go.

The Texans’ third possession of the quarter and their response was a good one. They again take advantage of poor special teams play by the Patriots and get the ball in Pats territory. From there, Arian Foster gashes the Pats for runs of 21 yards and 19 yards. Foster finishes the drive with a 1-yard run and a touchdown.

The Pats got the ball with a minute to go in the quarter and they might as well have sat on the ball. Three plays that go nowhere. It didn’t look like they even tried. They end up punting the ball with time left on the clock and the Texans make them pay. Houston, with all three timeouts, drive, and Shayne Graham connects on a 55-yard field. Just poor clock management and play-calling by the Patriots to end the quarter. Their special teams is letting them down also.

Second quarter, 1:15, 17-10 Patriots: Arian Foster, he of the Dan Shaughnessy-inspired Twitter avatar, is not ready to roll over in this one.

The running back broke a 21-yard run on the first play of the drive (which began at the New England 37, thanks to Stephen Gostkowski’s horse-collar tackle). He then broke a 19-yard run on the following play. He got the ball the next two plays, setting the Texans up on the 1-yard line. Foster, of course, got the call there, and crossed the goal line. The play was reviewed but ultimately, the ruling on the field was upheld.

Second quarter, 3:38, 17-3 Patriots: The Patriots’ offense is moving just fine without Rob Gronkowski, and you can thank one Mr. Wes Welker for that.

The man who was deemed to be not all that athletic by Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has looked decent thus far. He has six catches for 120 yards, including a 13-yard gain on third-and-11 deep in Patriots territory. Welker then burst down the left sideline, and despite good coverage from Kareem Jackson, leapt to catch Brady’s long bomb. Welker came down with a 47-yard gain.

Brady dumped off to Vereen, who scored his second touchdown of the night, and the Patriots lead 17-3.

Second quarter, 6:34, 10-3 Patriots: The Patriots’ defense is playing outstanding thus far. And that’s not even a relative term.

They just forced another Houston punt, thanks to Dont’a Hightower blowing up a wide receiver screen on a second down near midfield and Steve Gregory perfectly tackling Garrett Graham well short of the sticks on third down.

Andre Johnson does have 54 yards on four catches, but it appears to be the Patriots’ game plan to let him catch those short to intermediate routes, and then stop the rest of the Houston offense. It’s working thus far.

Donnie Jones’ punt went through the end zone, and the Pats get the ball at their own 20.

Second quarter, 10:16, 10-3 Patriots: It wasn’t a perfect drive for the Patriots, but it did end in points, as Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 37-yard field goal to extend the Pats’ lead to 10-3.

Wes Welker (unathletic, according to Wade Phillips) had the play of the drive, catching a pass from Brady and running downfield for a 30-yard gain.

The drive stalled later, though, when Brandon Lloyd was penalized 15 yards for throwing the ball at the official too hard. In the playoffs, that’s more than a curious call to see.

Second quarter, 14:07, 7-3 Patriots: The defense again does its job, with Chandler Jones flushing Matt Schaub out of the pocket and forcing an incompletion on third down. Vince Wilfork got good pressure to force an overthrow on second down as well. The Patriots take over on their own 16 after a Wes Welker fair catch.

WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with his first quarter thoughts:

Not the way the Pats want to start the game. The Texans take the kickoff 94 yards to the Pats’ 12. The Pats’ defense holds after that, forcing Houston has to settle for a 27-yard field goal. The special teams unit has been a problem in the last couple of weeks and the Pats cannot afford to give up points like that. That was an easy 3 for the Texans.

Pats offense started slow. It was strange but Stevan Ridley was not in the game and not part of the first team offense on the initial two drives.

Then, the Pats started to settle everything down, forcing the Texans to punt the ball away. Aqib Talib and Vince Wilfork are playing big so far. The Texans are going after Talib and he, so far is up to it. 

Danny Woodhead suffered a thumb injury and hasn’t been seen since the first play of the game. The Pats moved the ball a little bit on their second drive. Welker takes a big hit after catching a first down and Brady takes a 9-yard sack. Welker gets a drop on third down that would have moved the chains.  Pats end up punting the ball away. 

Rob Gronkowski is in the locker room with an arm injury, and his return is questionable.

Texans third possession and the Pats defense is doing its job.  Aqib Talib is answering the call in his first ever playoff game. On Houston’s punt, Donnie Jones shanks it and the Patriots get the ball in good field position. They make it count. Stevan Ridlley enters the game and the Pats start moving the ball.  A 14 yard run by Ridley and then 13 yards on a passing play.  They pick up 25 more with a pass to Shane Vereen.  The drive ends with a 1 yard touchdown plunge by Shane Vereen.

End of first quarter, 7-3 Patriots: Arian Foster had a lot of space to run after catching a short pass from Schaub, and he ran for a first down as the first quarter expired. It’ll be first-and-10 from the 47 at the start of the second.

First quarter, 1:28, 7-3 Patriots: Without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead, the Patriots rode Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen all the way down the field for a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead.

Ridley, on his first snap of the afternoon, kicked the drive off with a 14-yard run up the right side. Two plays later, he caught a dump-off from Brady and scampered for a 13-yard gain.

Shane Vereen then ran a fade along the right sideline like a wide receiver and hauled in a 25-yard pass. After Aaron Hernandez set the Patriots up at the 1-yard line, Shane Vereen (The Touchdown Machine) did the honors, giving the Pats a 7-3 lead.

Injury update on Gronkowski is that he has an arm injury and his return is questionable.

First quarter, 4:29, 3-0 Texans: While the major concern is Gronkowski’s health, the Patriots can’t wait around to see if he’ll be ready to come back. The defense did its job, forcing another punt, an ugly one by Donnie Jones that will set up the Patriots at their 35-yard line.

Remember, they did just fine in Gronkowski’s absence at the end of the season, so missing him now is no excuse. We’ve still yet to get an update on his status.

First quarter, 5:49, 3-0 Texans: To say things are shaky for the Patriots right now would be to put it lightly.

Danny Woodhead is questionable to return with a thumb injury, Rob Gronkowski appeared to be in pain after diving out of bounds to try to make a catch, and Wes Welker dropped a would-be chain mover on third down, forcing the second Zoltan Mesko punt of the first quarter.

Welker was big earlier on that drive with two catches for 22 yards, but he let that last one go right through his hands.

The big concern now is Gronkowski. He just went to the locker room, indicating he needs attention from trainers.

First quarter, 9:27, 3-0 Texans: Steve Gregory had a missed tackle on a play that ultimately resulted in a 13-yard gain for Arian Foster. He made up for it later in the drive, getting help on the tackle of Owen Daniels from Aqib Talib short of the sticks to force a Texans punt. That punt was downed at the New England 12, and the Patriots’ offense will get another shot here.

First quarter, 12:38, 3-0 Texans: Well at least Zoltan Mesko came ready to play.

The punter just unleashed a 61-yard missile off his left foot, and Keshawn Martin could muster just a 4-yard return after falling down. First-and-10 Houston at their own 17-yard line.

The punt came after a short run by Danny Woodhead, an 8-yard completion to Wes Welker over the middle and incomplete pass to Brandon Lloyd on third-and-short. The timing between Brady and Lloyd looked just a tick off on that play, forcing Brady to throw the ball far to the outside to avoid a potential interception.

First quarter, 13:57, 3-0 Texans: Well, consider that an early win for the Patriots’ defense.

With the Texans starting the drive in the red zone, the Pats’ D stuffed Arian Foster on first down. James Casey dropped a potential touchdown over the middle on second down, and then Matt Schaub overthrew Andre Johnson by a mile on third down.

Shayne Graham hit the field goal, but that’s a huge missed opportunity early for Houston after that incredible return.

First quarter, 14:49, 0-0: We are under way. Stephen Gostkowski kicked away to Danieal Manning, who had an incredible return all the way to the Patriots’ 15-yard line. Wow. It was a 94-yard return. It looks like the Texans’ choosing to receive was a good choice.

4:38 p.m.: The Texans won the toss and have elected to receive.

4:36 p.m.: The anthem’s been sung, the fireworks have been fired, and the only thing left is for the ball to be kicked.

4:28 p.m.: A touching moment here at Gillette, as the Patriots honor some of the first responders from Newtown, Conn. The group receives a tremendous ovation from the crowd.

(It’s a short-live moment, though, because the Texans were introduced just a few seconds later, drawing heavy boos from the home crowd.)

4:14 p.m.: John Kerry was spotted on the field chatting it up with Robert Kraft during warmups. Kraft then went over toward the locker room entrance and shook hands and wished his players well as they headed in for their final pregame preparation.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, the Falcons were able to drive down the field, miss a field goal that didn’t count due to Pete Carroll’s timeout, nail the ensuing field goal, kick off short to Seattle and then come up with an end zone interception to seal an incredible victory over the Seahawks. Catch all that?

4:03 p.m.: Rob Gronkowski is out on the field for warmups, sporting that big white wrap on his big left arm. We’re just over 30 minutes away from kickoff now, and it looks like the Seahawks are about to cap off an unbelievable comeback in Atlanta. Nobody on the field seems too concerned about that right now, though.

3:52 p.m.: Some Patriots have finally made their way onto the field for some pregame warmups, including Tom Brady.

Twitter is abuzz right now with stories of J.J. Watt spitting on the Patriots’ logo and rubbing his foot on it, but I didn’t catch that earlier. I doubt word of that would make its way into the Patriots’ locker room so close to kickoff anyway.

3:15 p.m.: WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with the inactive Patriots players:
Here are the Patriots players that will be inactive for today’s playoff game against the Houston Texans:

DL  Jake Bequette
OL  Nick McDonald
OL  Markus Zusevics
WR Kamar Aiken
CB  Malcom Williams
CB  Derrick Martin
TE  Daniel Fells

This tells me that the core of the Patriots staff will be playing and they are healthy. The Pats may be the healthiest they’ve been all year long.

This should be a good game for them. They have had time to rest and we will get a chance to see what the look like healthy.

3 p.m.: WBZ-TV’s Levan Reid checks in with an observation from the press box:

The Houston Texans have been out on the field warming up for over an hour now. They did the same thing the last time they were here on Monday night, getting out on the field way before the Patriots are even in the building. I have seen countless sprints, stretches, lunges, squats, guys playing catch, leg kicks, hand to hand fighting and one-handed catch attempts

The Pats have yet to take the field and when they do, it will be a light jog.  I have seen it.  They must get warmed up some place else.

2 p.m.: It’s finally here. Well, almost.

After a full two weeks of waiting and a week of hype leading up to this Texas-sized rematch, we’re finally in the closing minutes before the game finally begins.

It’s an unseasonably warm afternoon here in Foxboro, with just some fog in the air. It’s 50 degrees out, with the temperature expected to stay around there through the end of the game (unless we see another double-overtime game, but I wouldn’t count on that).

We’ll have all the updates right here in the live blog, with the inactive players list coming out soon. Check back throughout the afternoon, and through the game all the way until the final whistle to see how this one plays out and which team will advance to next weekend.

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