FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was probably closer than most thought it would be, but the New England Patriots got past the Houston Texans 34-16 in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Playing in his first postseason game, running back Dion Lewis scored three touchdowns to lead the Patriots into the AFC final for an NFL-record sixth consecutive time. The Oakland Raiders advanced to five straight AFC title games from 1973-77.

Lewis, carrying a big load because running back LeGarrette Blount has been sick, scored on a 13-yard pass from Tom Brady and a 98-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, then on a 1-yard run in the fourth.

“He made some big plays for us,” said Brady of Lewis. “The kickoff return was incredible, the touchdown catch. He did a good job.”

Lewis’ final touchdown came after a Logan Ryan interception, one of the three the Patriots got off Brock Osweiler. Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon had the others. New England sacked Osweiler three times.

“We talk about it all week,” Harmon said. “To win in the playoffs, you’ve got to create turnovers.”

The Patriots won despite two interceptions by Brady – who threw only two in 12 regular-season games – and a fumble by Lewis. The Texans scored 13 points off the turnovers.

“The turnovers obviously hurt us quite a bit,” said Brady. “We’ve got to tighten it up for next week.”

New England will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Pittsburgh and Kansas City next Sunday.

Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 137 yards, becoming New England’s all-time leading receiver in the playoffs. He now has 76 career playoff receptions.

The Patriots appeared to take control in the third quarter. Brady directed a long touchdown drive, lofting a perfect ball to James White for a 19-yard touchdown that gave New England a 24-13 lead with 9:09 left in the period.

McCourty intercepted Osweiler on the next series but the Patriots couldn’t convert.

The Texans missed a great opportunity when Will Fuller dropped a pass in the end zone that would have been a touchdown.

But Andre Hal of Houston intercepted Brady, leading to a 46-yard field goal from Nick Novak that cut New England’s lead to 24-16 just nine seconds into the fourth.

Lewis’ two touchdowns in the first quarter helped the Patriots to a 14-3 lead. But they self-destructed in the second.

First, Brady threw an interception to cornerback A.J. Bouye – a ball that deflected off Michael Floyd’s hands – to give the Texans the ball at the Patriots’ 27. That led to a 27-yard field goal by Novak to cut New England’s lead to 14-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lewis fumbled when hit by Akeem Dent, the ball recovered by Eddie Pleasant of Houston at New England’s 12. On second down, Osweiler threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open C.J. Fiedorowicz and it was stunningly 14-13 with 10:49 left in the second quarter.

New England finally scored with seven seconds remaining on a 19-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, the big play of the drive a 48-yard completion to Edelman that gave him the team record.

Lewis got the Patriots started quickly.

On New England’s second possession, he took a swing pass from Brady in the left flat, made a move on linebacker Bernardrick McKinney that froze him and scampered in untouched for a 13-yard score.

New England’s defense was handling the Texans, forcing two punts on their first two series. And it would have been three straight but cornerback Eric Rowe was given a 15-yard personal foul on a third-down play that gave the Texans their first first down of the game. Houston went on to get a 33-yard field goal to cut the margin to 7-3.

But Lewis took the kickoff and went 98 yards for a touchdown – the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Patriots playoff history. Lewis started left, then cut right at the 20, avoiding a tackle and then pulling away from Brian Peters while racing down the left sideline.


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