January 14, 2013

AFC playoffs: Texans toasted, Patriots head to finals

By BARRY WILNER The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Wes Welker, Kareem Jackson
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Wes Welker hauls in a pass behind Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson for a 47-yard gain in the first half Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The catch set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen, and the Patriots went on to a 41-28 victory.

Photos by The Associated Press

Shane Vereen, Tom Brady
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Shane Vereen is congratulated by Tom Brady after the first of his three touchdowns against the Texans. The backup running back caught two TD passes and rushed for a score.

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NFC: San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons, 3 p.m. Sunday (FOX)

AFC: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 6:30 p.m. Sunday (CBS)


Mosts wins by a starting quarterback in NFL postseason history:

17: Tom Brady, New England

16: Joe Montana, San Francisco and Kansas City

14: Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh

14: John Elway, Denver

13: Brett Favre, Green Bay and Minnesota

Unlike their 42-14 loss here a month ago, the Texans didn't fold early. J.J. Watt, their dominating defensive end, bothered Brady, and when they fell behind 17-3, they had the fortitude to climb back.

Arian Foster did all the work after Danieal Manning's second big kickoff return, this one a 35-yarder that had 15 yards tacked on when kicker Stephen Gostkowski brought down Manning with a horse-collar tackle. The Pro Bowl runner covered all 47 yards on a five-play drive and his 1-yard run -- he barely squeezed into the end zone -- made it 17-10.

Houston forced a three-and-out, and a short punt gave the Texans another shot just before halftime. They got close enough for Shayne Graham to kick a 55-yard field goal as the half ended.

But the Patriots pulled away in the third quarter for Coach Bill Belichick's 17th postseason win, third behind Tom Landry (20) and Don Shula (19).

Now come the Ravens.

"It's sweet just playing in the AFC championship," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "It's a team that beat us earlier this year at their house, and a team that's riled up for us."

Needing a quick jolt after being blown out by the Patriots on Dec. 10, the Texans got it on the opening kickoff from Manning. He took the ball 6 yards deep in his end zone and never hesitated in returning it. He broke free at the Houston 30 and wasn't run down until reaching the New England 12.

That spark didn't even last one play, though, and Houston wound up with Graham's 27-yard field goal.

And when the Texans closed the first half with a 10-point spurt, they wasted the momentum by allowing a quick touchdown drive to open the third quarter. Brady went to his familiar targets, Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez, on that series before second-year back Stevan Ridley scored on an 8-yard burst.

New England lost Gronkowski and Woodhead almost immediately. Gronkowski missed five regular-season games with a broken left forearm but returned for the finale. After eight Patriots plays, he was gone again.

So Brady found other targets. Vereen, after gaining 400 yards overall during the regular season, picked up 124 against the Texans. He had four touchdowns in the regular season.

"I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play," Vereen said. "I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team."

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Additional Photos

Danieal Manning, Stevan Ridley
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Patriots running back Stevan Ridley drags Texans safety Danieal Manning into the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half.


Glover Quin, Shane Vereen
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Shane Vereen stretches for extra yardage while being tackled by Houston’s Glover Quin. Vereen scored three touchdowns for the Patriots.

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Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich (50) runs with the ball after intercepting a pass intended for Texans fullback James Casey during the second half Sunday.

The Associated Press

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