The New England Patriots are moving onto the AFC Championship, following a dominating 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans.
All week, time and again, we constantly heard how the Patriots were on the fortunate end of a lot of breaks in their week 14 match-up against the Texans. We heard that if just a few plays went the other way, that we would have been looking at a completely different ball game.
Well, in tonight's Divisional Playoff game, just about every break imaginable went the way of the Houston Texans. Yet, the Patriots dominated, came away with a 41-28 victory, and are moving on to the AFC Championship game for the second straight season.
The final score of this one doesn't really even give justice to exactly how dominating the New England Patriots were in this one. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Patriots held a dominating 25 point lead before moving into a more conservative defense and allowing the Texans to pick up big yardage and points (but on the flip side, burning valuable clock).
The heroes of this game are obvious. Lets highlight a few:
Shane Vereen. With Danny Woodhead going down with a thumb injury on the opening drive, Shane Vereen took over as the Patriots' change of pace back, and was phenomenal. Vereen should nice explosion and made some nice cuts as a runner, but was completely unstoppable as a receiver. He finished with three total touchdowns, two of which were through the air.
Tom Brady. Tom Brady was Tom Terrific yet again in the playoffs. He went 25/40 for 344 yards and three touchdowns. His fourth quarter touchdown to Shane Vereen was one of the prettiest throws of his postseason career.
Rob Ninkovich: Ninkovich came up with a huge interception in the third quarter to stall a Texans drive. The Patriots then took back over and extended the lead to 18 points with a touchdown. He also came up clutch in the fourth quarter with a recovery of an onside kick that had bounced of Patrick Chung.
Wes Welker: Welker had a huge game for the Patriots. He came up with a beautiful one handed catch down the left sideline in the first half, and was Brady's go to throughout the night, finishing with 131 yards on eight catches.
There were plenty of other strong performances, including that of safety Steve Gregory. It should also be noted that the victory for Tom Brady gave him the most wins of any starting quarterback in postseason history with 17.
On a more somber note, the Patriots suffered their fair share of injuries. Rob Gronkowski is feared to be lost for the year with a re-injured wrist. Danny Woodhead and Chandler Jones also went down with injuries. Jones did not return.
Next week, the Patriots play the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship in a re-match of last year's contest. We'll have plenty of time to break down that match-up, but for now, lets enjoy this Patriots victory!