By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — That was not how it was supposed to play out. The heavily-favored Patriots let the Texans stick around in the AFC Divisional Round, and at times, it looked like they were going to give the game away.
If anything is certain, the Patriots probably won’t be going to Houston in three weeks if they play like this next Sunday.
The offense turned the ball over three times, but were bailed out by a great night by the defense as the Pats pulled off a 34-16 victory.
Tom Brady looked pretty ticked off at the podium after the game, and said the offense will have to learn from this one.
“[The Texans] did a good job playing against us. They had good scheme stuff, they have good rushers and good guys in coverage. It was a lot of things, and add in our poor execution and turnovers on top of that, it doesn’t feel great,” he said. “We worked hard to play a lot better. I give them a lot of credit but we have to play better on offense.”
In the end, while the Patriots didn’t play well, they still put up 34 points and are off to their record sixth straight AFC Championship Game. It will be the 11th AFC Championship game for Brady and Bill Belichick. Incredible.
Here are the Ups and Downs from that exciting (and nerve-wracking) New England victory:
Defense Stands Tall
The Houston offense isn’t very good. Brock Osweiler is not good at all. But give the defense credit for making plays when they had to; they picked off Osweiler three times in the second half, leading to seven much-needed points for the offense.
“They played great. They’ve been doing such a great job for us all season,” Brady said of the defense after the game. “The turnovers were a huge part of us scoring points on offense. If they play like that, it’s tough to put points on the board.”
Logan Ryan had himself a game, finishing with an interception, three pass deflections, a sack and seven total tackles. Devin McCourty made a great play to pick off Osweiler, and Duran Harmon sealed the win with his pick in the fourth quarter.
“Big day for Rutgers,” Belichick joked after the game, with all three of those players former Scarlet Knights.
The Pats’ D sacked Osweiler three times throughout the night, and held the Texans to just 3-for-16 on third down.
Lewis’ Hat Trick
In his first playoff game, the Patriots running back made some history. He’s the only player to rush for a touchdown, catch a touchdown and return a kick for a touchdown in the same playoff game. Not too shabby for a player who didn’t find the end zone in the regular season.
Lewis’ touchdown on a 98-yard kickoff return was the first kickoff return for a score in Patriots’ postseason history. He looks healthy and that quick burst of his is a dangerous weapon for the New England offense.
Edelman Sets A New Patriots Record
The receiver is now New England’s all-time leader in postseason receptions, surpassing Wes Welker’s old mark of 69. With eight receptions for 137 yards, Edelman is up to 76 receptions in his playoff career.
All hail Minitron.
Big Drive By Offense Early In Second Half
The Pats started the second half with a three-and-out, but after the Defense forced the Texans to punt, the offense came alive.
Brady and company went up-tempo and broke off a nine-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a nice 19-yard touchdown to James White on a wheel route. Along the way, Brady hit Edelman for 26 and 14 yards and Chris Hogan for 21 yards. It was the offense we’re used to seeing, with Brady performing surgery on the Houston defense.
Let’s hope to see more of that next Sunday against the Steelers or Chiefs.
BONUS: Bennett Appears To Be OK
Martellus Bennett’s left knee bent in a way it shouldn’t have, and it didn’t look good when the tight end hit the ground in the second half.
But Bennett missed just one play before returning to the field. When asked about it after the game, he responded “I’m good,” “[stuff] happens” and made another Luke Cage reference.
They were plentiful and nearly costly. Brady threw a pair of interceptions, both off of deflections, matching his total from the regular season. Lewis also fumbled a kickoff return in the second quarter to set up an easy Texans’ touchdown drive.
Houston put 13 points on the board off those three turnovers, which made this game much closer than it had to be. We should mention that Lewis also put the ball on the ground in the fourth quarter, but Joe Thuney was able to recover it before any Houston player could.
Cornerback Eric Rowe was hit with a costly penalty following a third down stop, getting hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for trying to yank a Texans player off a pile during a scrum. Instead of the Texans punting away to an offense that had just scored they were given new life, and 11 plays later, were on the board with a field goal to make it 7-3. That was 11 plays the defense shouldn’t have had to play.
In total, the Pats were hit with five penalties for 50 yards.
Stuffed Before The Half
Up 14-13 and with the ball at the Houston 3-yard line, the Pats had three plays to plug it in just before halftime. They couldn’t get it done.
Brady, James Develin and LeGarrette Blount were all stuffed by that Houston defensive line, and the Pats had to settle for a field goal.
Rough Night For Offensive Line
The offensive line was not good for long stretches in this one, as Brady was constantly under heavy pressure. He was sacked twice and hit eight times in all.
David Andrews had a rough night trying to contain Whitney Mercilus, who finished with a sack and three hits on Brady.