FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots admittedly did not play a good game Sunday afternoon.

But they had Tom Brady in the huddle. And in the end, that was all that mattered.

Brady drove the Patriots 75 yards in eight plays in the final 2:24, connecting with Brandin Cooks for a 25-yard touchdown pass that gave New England a 36-33 win over the Houston Texans. It was the 52nd fourth-quarter or overtime winning drive in Brady’s storied career.

“It never fails, every time I think it’s going down, it never goes,” said cornerback Malcolm Butler. “I just hope we keep it up.”

Brady was magnificent on the final drive, completing 5 of 7 passes for 75 yards. He hit Rob Gronkowski for 15 yards on third-and-12, then found Danny Amendola for a 27-yard gain on third-and-18.

“That was great situational play by a lot of guys,” said Brady. “We didn’t do much there in the fourth quarter.” Gronkowski said there was a calmness in the huddle when the drive began. “We all looked at each other, and not one person is going to make us win the game,” he said. “We all looked at each other and we all counted on each other to make plays. I feel like everyone in the huddle made plays that drive. … It just shows how big of a team game this is, NFL football.”

The Patriots had to overcome a lot of their own offensive deficiencies. Brady was sacked five times by Houston’s ferocious pass rush and fumbled three times, including one that was returned for a touchdown. The running game never got untracked.

“We played a lot of bad football out there,” said offensive tackle Nate Solder. “There are a lot of things we need to improve. But shoot, when you play a good team like the Texans, they’re going to make plays. When you come out on top, it just shows that we have some resilience, some character and some endurance. Those are things we can build off of, because we have a lot to improve.”

Cooks had his best game since joining the Patriots, catching five passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. On the winning score, he leaped into the air along the left sideline in the end zone and tapped his feet inbounds before he was shoved out.

“It was a great win,” said Brady. “Got to play to the last second.”

GRONKOWSKI CAUGHT eight passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, but he spent much of the day as an extra blocker, jamming Houston’s outstanding defensive end, J.J. Watt. And he was fine with that, especially on a day when the temperature reached into the mid-80s.

“I don’t care what my role is,” he said. “I appreciate being out there playing … I don’t think I would have made it if I had run 50 (pass) routes today.”

He also said that when he stays in to block, he takes up two defensive players – the one he’s blocking and the one who’s assigned to cover him. “I had no problem with it, especially on a day like today,” he said.

RAYMOND CLAYBORN, the 2017 inductee into the Patriots Hall of Fame, was honored at halftime. He received a red jacket, which is given to each player upon his induction into the Hall.

Clayborn lost the first jacket he received, along with most of his belongings, because of Hurricane Harvey.

“We will get through what we’re going through down there in Texas,” said Clayborn, wearing his No. 26 jersey under the red jacket. “But I’ll always remember how you guys treated me in 2017.”

Clayborn still holds several team records: career interceptions (36, tied with Ty Law); consecutive games (161); consecutive games started (147), and career kickoff returns for touchdowns (3, tied with Ellis Hobbs).

MATTHEW SLATER was inactive for the third consecutive game. The Patriots’ special teams ace has yet to play because of a hamstring injury.

Other players out for the Patriots included cornerback Eric Rowe (groin), running back Rex Burkhead (ribs), linebackers Harvey Langi and Dont’a Hightower (knee), and offensive linemen Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion) and Cole Croston.

With Rowe out, the Patriots were a little short-handed at cornerback, especially when starter Stephon Gilmore went to the locker room in the third quarter because of dehydration. Gilmore had his first interception for New England in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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