Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Kristie Rieken
The Associated Press
New England Patriots’ Shane Vereen (34) is knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line by Houston Texans’ D.J. Swearinger (36) during the third quarter Sunday in Houston.
The Associated Press
WHO: Patriots (9-3) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-8)
WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Gillette Stadium
HOUSTON — Tom Brady was glad to escape Houston with a win.
He would have been much happier if his New England Patriots didn’t have to overcome another first-half deficit to do it.
Brady threw for 371 yards and two scores, and Stephen Gostkowski made two long field goals in the fourth quarter Sunday as the Patriots rallied for a 34-31 win over Houston.
“I wish we could start fast and put the foot on the gas pedal the whole way,” Brady said.
New England Coach Bill Belichick echoed Brady’s feelings.
“It’s not the way we want to play,” he said. “Hopefully, I can find a way to coach better than I’ve done, find a way to get ahead.”
The Texans’ franchise-record skid reached 10 games. Gary Kubiak coached from the sideline for the first time since suffering a mini-stroke Nov. 3. He missed one game before working the last two games from the booth.
“We’re playing hard, we’re not always playing good,” Kubiak said. “We had a lot of opportunities to make plays ourselves, just didn’t make enough.”
New England overcame a 24-point first-half deficit last week to beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime.
The Patriots (9-3) trailed by 10 at halftime in this one and the lead changed five times in a wild second half. New England tied it with a 53-yard field goal and took a 34-31 lead with another one from 53 with about three minutes left.
“Whatever we’re doing is not good enough, and we can’t keep getting behind because you have to play too well in the second half to overcome,” Brady said.
The Texans (2-10) had a chance late, but the offense stalled. On fourth-and-13, Case Keenum threw an incompletion as he was being hit.
Ben Tate ran for 102 yards and three touchdowns for the Texans, who haven’t won since Sept. 15. It was the first 100-yard rushing game since 2011 for Tate, who has been slowed since Oct. 20 with four broken ribs.
The victory ended a three-game road skid for the Patriots, who have won their last eight December games and 16 of their last 17 in the month. The victory assured them their 13th straight winning record and an all-but-certain playoff berth.
“It’s a big plus,” Belichick said. “We have to find a way to win on the road. Fortunately this week we did it. The last three we were in similar situations to this and didn’t do it.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski had six receptions for 127 yards and Julian Edelman added 101 yards receiving on nine catches. New England didn’t miss starting running back Stevan Ridley, who was not active after having fumbling problems recently. Belichick evaded questions about why he was inactive. Ridley was seen on the sidelines in a warm-up suit holding a football.
Keenum threw for 272 yards with an interception and Andre Johnson had eight receptions for 121 yards.
Tate’s third score came when he ran 10 yards to make it 31-28. The key play of that drive came on a 66-yard reception by rookie DeAndre Hopkins.
LeGarrette Blount’s 7-yard touchdown run had given New England a 28-24 lead.
Before that, Keenum put Houston back on top when he took a keeper 5 yards late in the third quarter.
(Continued on page 2)