Jan. 13, 2010.
That marked the date of the first, and only, time the Houston Texans had defeated the New England Patriots in franchise history.
Few foresaw that changing Saturday night in the divisional round. There was little reason for it to. The 10-7 Texans, coming off a wild-card victory over an Oakland Raiders team starting its third-string rookie quarterback, entered Gillette Stadium as 16-point underdogs against the top seed in the AFC.
But in the end, a margin that was once as close as one point would stretch to 18.
And with that, here’s a glance at the in-game and historical numbers behind the Patriots’ 34-16 victory.
Saturday night signified the 32nd playoff game of Tom Brady’s career. Equivalent to two regular seasons, the 39-year-old quarterback now stands two appearances ahead of longtime Patriots and current Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri for the most by any player in NFL postseason history.
Dating back to January 2002, the Patriots have now won 23 of 32 playoff games with Brady under center. That, too, extends an all-time record. The closest to him among starting quarterbacks is Joe Montana, with 16, followed by Terry Bradshaw, John Elway and Peyton Manning, all with 14.
From the same vein, Bill Belichick extended a record of his own by securing his 24th postseason victory as head coach. Belichick, who went 1-1 in the playoffs while with the Cleveland Browns and has now gone 23-9 with the Patriots, further distanced himself from Tom Landry’s second-ranked 20 playoff wins and Don Shula’s third-ranked 19.
Belichick and Brady will be moving on to their 11th AFC title bout together. As noted by NFL Research, no other coach-quarterback tandem has ventured to more than six conference championships since the 1970 merger.
With the divisional-round win, New England also checks in as the first team since the merger to advance to six conference championship games in a row. The Patriots had previously been tied with the 1973-1977 Oakland Raiders for the longest streak of conference title appearances over the last 37 years.
As kickoff loomed, 11 players resided ahead of Julian Edelman on the all-time postseason receptions list. The Patriots wideout, who posted 68 catches through his first dozen playoff games, reeled in another eight in his 13th. That sent Edelman past Wes Welker for the most in Patriots playoff history while bringing him to 76 in his eight-year NFL career. In the process of Saturday’s action, Edelman moved passed Art Monk, Fred Biletnikoff, Anquan Boldin and Cliff Branch on the all-time list and tied Thurman Thomas. Andre Reed, Michael Irvin, Welker, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne and Jerry Rice remain in front him.
Dating back to 2013, Edelman has amassed 744 receiving yards over eight postseason games. His accumulation leads the league over that sample size. Edelman racked up 137 yards in the passing attack versus Houston.
Dion Lewis went without a touchdown over the course of his seven regular-season appearances in 2016. But in the first playoff game of his NFL career, the sudden back notched his first, then his second, then his third – becoming the first player in playoff history to score a rushing, kickoff-returning and receiving TD in a single game. Brady hit Lewis clearing out to the flat with 9:34 to go in the opening quarter for the initial points of the game. Only minutes later, Lewis returned a kickoff 98 yards for another. And with just over 12 minutes to go, Lewis took a one-yard handoff across the plane for his third score of the tilt.
The Patriots had gone 1,546 days between kick-return touchdowns. But four seasons after then-cornerback Devin McCourty ran one back 104 yards versus the New York Jets on Oct. 21, 2012, Lewis ended up in the same place. His 98-yard TD is the first kick return to transpire in New England playoff history.
From Jimmy Garoppolo to Jacoby Brissett to Brady – the Patriots set an NFL record by throwing just two interceptions during the 16-game regular season. But Brady, who accounted for both over his 12 starts, would throw his third and fourth of the campaign on Saturday. Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye picked off a pass that slipped through receiver Michael Floyd’s hands on a slant early in the second quarter. Brady later was intercepted by safety Andre Hal with a minute remaining in the third.
Houston managed to turn New England’s turnovers into 13 points, kicking a 27-yard field goal following Brady’s first interception and connecting on a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz following Lewis’ fumble returning a kickoff. The Texans would then get a 46-yard field goal off of Brady’s second pick as the final frame got underway.
LeGarrette Blount handled his first carry of the contest with 10:43 to go before halftime. The 6-foot, 250-pound Patriots running back, who rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns during the regular season, compiled just two yards on two carries by the time intermission had set in. He finished with 31 yards on eight attempts.
Texans edge-rusher Whitney Mercilus continued to leave his playoff imprint on Saturday. Mercilus brought Brady down twice in second quarter, forcing a loss of four with the help of linebacker Brian Cushing the first time, and then another loss of four on his own the second time. With 6.5 sacks in his last three postseason games, Mercilus ended things just a half-sack away from most over a three-game span in playoff history.
Brady, who found receiving back James White on a 19-yard wheel route in the third quarter for his second touchdown toss of the evening, now has 58 TD passes on his playoff resume. Montana and Brett Favre land second and third, respectively, in the league archives with 45 and 44.
Houston tight end Ryan Griffin, who caught a team-high eight passes on 10 targets in the previous meeting with New England, was held without a reception this time around. The Londonderry, N.H., native was targeted three times.
The Rutgers products in New England’s secondary pieced together an eventful night. Cornerback Logan Ryan, as well as McCourty and fellow safety Duron Harmon accounted for all three of quarterback Brock Osweiler’s interceptions. And all three took place in the second half. Ryan, who was drafted only eight picks before Harmon in 2013, also registered a sack and two third-down pass breakups along the way.
Osweiler’s longest completion against New England went to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for 19 yards. The Houston signal-caller finished 23-of-40 through the air for 198 yards – an average of 4.95 yards per throw.
Through the last three meetings between New England and Houston, the Patriots have outscored head coach Bill O’Brien’s Texans 88-22. Houston fell by a score of 27-6 at NRG Stadium on Dec. 13, 2015, then 27-0 on Sept. 22, 2016 at Gillette before trimming the gap there in the divisional round.
The Patriots improved to a 30-19 all-time playoff record on Saturday, becoming just the fifth franchise in league history to reach the 30-win threshold in postseason action. That sets New England in the company of the San Francisco 49ers’ 30, the Green Bay Packers’ 33, the Dallas Cowboys’ 34, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 35.