The New England Patriots held a 17-13 lead over the Houston Texans at halftime thanks to a receiving touchdown and a kick return for a touchdown by RB Dion Lewis. Lewis added a third touchdown via the ground in the second half as the Patriots held off the plucky Texans to win 34-16.
The Patriots received the opening kick of the second half, but failed to produce anything as they went three-and-out. After Texans RB Lamar Miller broke free for 17 yards, the Texans stalled and punted the ball back to the Patriots.
QB Tom Brady dug deep and the Patriots offense bombarded the Texans with an aerial affront. Brady hit WR Julian Edelman for 26 yards, and then 14 yards. A terrible penalty brought back a 17-yard run by RB LeGarrette Blount and set up a 1st-and-20, but Brady hit WR Chris Hogan for 21 yards and a new set of downs. Brady hit Edelman for 7 yards, Lewis carried the ball for 4 yards, and Brady hit Edelman for another 7 yards. Brady connected with RB James White for a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 24-13 lead.
The Texans needed to respond with a major drive and they moved the ball to midfield, but Patriots FS Devin McCourty baited Texans QB Brock Osweiler into throwing a pass to the sideline and intercepted the ball. The Patriots were unable to score, but they shifted the field and set the Texans up on their own 2-yard line.
Osweiler struggled to lead sustained drives all game and stalled after getting Houston back to midfield. The Texans punted back to the Patriots and it seemed like New England was going to drive and ice the game.
Instead, Brady threw a pass to Edelman, but missed the linebacker lurking in the open field; the linebacker tipped the ball and the Texans came up with the interception and the ball on the Patriots 34-yard line. Houston did nothing with the ball and kicked a field goal to reduce the Patriots to a one-score 24-16 lead.
The Texans defense forced another stop against the Patriots offense and it seemed like the momentum was heading in Houston’s direction, but CB Logan Ryan was in the middle of his best game of the year. Ryan intercepted Osweiler and returned the ball to the Texans 6-yard-line.
Two plays later, Dion Lewis was in the end zone with his third touchdown of the game.
Dion Lewis is the 1st player in NFL postseason history to have a rushing TD, receiving TD & KR-TD in a single game pic.twitter.com/s7edgYJgjQ— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) January 15, 2017
Prior to this season, the last time a player had a receiving, rushing, and return TD in one game was 1965 (Gale Sayers, 10/17/65).— Michael Berger (@MichaelSBerger) January 15, 2017
Lewis is the first player to record a receiving, a rushing, and a return touchdown in a playoff game, and the first player to accomplish the feat in the Super Bowl era. The score gave the Patriots a 31-16 lead.
The Patriots defense forced another Texans punt, while Brady led another field goal drive to take a 34-16 lead. Houston would need three scores to catch up and there was just 6:40 left in the entire game. The rest of the game seemed to be a mere formality and Patriots S Duron Harmon clinched the game with an interception.
WR Julian Edelman had another fantastic performance with 137 receiving yards on 8 catches. WR Chris Hogan added 95 yards on 4 receptions before leaving with a thigh injury. Lewis chipped in 64 yards from scrimmage and two offensive scores, in addition to his kick return touchdown; on the other hand, Lewis fumbled the ball twice in crucial moments.
No other player really produced for the Patriots and the offense will need someone else to step up in the AFC Championship Game. Overall, the offense was extremely sloppy and will need to work on improvements in the run game before next week.
On defense, the Patriots were excellent. They forced three interceptions in the second half. Three of the Texans four scoring drives were the fault of the offense throwing interceptions (resulting in two field goals) or Lewis fumbling on a kick return. The fourth Texans scoring drive came after CB Eric Rowe was called for a penalty after a third down stop, granting the Texans a new set of downs.
The Patriots are advancing to their 6th straight AFC Championship Game, an NFL record. The opponent will be determined after Sunday’s game between the #2 Kansas City Chiefs and the #3 Pittsburgh Steelers.