Quick Links

Pats beat Texans 41-28, return to AFC title game

201301131657610388899-p2.jpeg

Pats beat Texans 41-28, return to AFC title game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady made history. Now it's his coach's turn.

The Patriots' quarterback added to a string of postseason success that stretches back more than a decade, earning his 17th playoff win to break a tie with his boyhood idol, Joe Montana, for most by a quarterback.

After New England's 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday night, Bill Belichick needs two more playoff wins to match Tom Landry's NFL high of 20. If Belichick gets there this season he'd also tie Chuck Noll for most Super Bowl championships by a coach with four.

First, the Baltimore Ravens stand in the way next Sunday in a rematch of last year's AFC title game.

``Right now our focus is just (being) happy to win this game and get on to Baltimore,'' Belichick said. ``We can reflect back on some other years some other time.''

Sunday was Brady's day to reach a milestone. His first postseason win came in the 2001 season, which ended with his first Super Bowl title. Now he's guiding the NFL's most productive offense into his sixth AFC championship game in his 13 seasons.

``He's our leader and we all follow him,'' said Belichick, the team's real leader. ``We all respect him and he led the team today, along with a lot of other guys. But he certainly did his job, as he's done many times before.''

It won't take Belichick long to put Sunday's victory out of his mind, impressive as it was. Brady also is ready to move on to the next challenge.

``I think the two best teams are in the finals,'' he said. ``Baltimore certainly deserves to be here and so do we, so it's fitting.''

The Texans (13-5) certainly don't after losing four of their last six games, starting with a 42-14 rout by the Patriots (13-4) on Dec. 10 on the same field where their season ended.

``There's no good landing in this business unless you're playing a few weeks from now,'' Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. ``Other than that, the landing's a crash.''

Brady threw for three scores and 344 yards and seldom-used running back Shane Vereen, seeing more action because Danny Woodhead hurt his thumb on the Patriots' first offensive play, had three touchdowns. Wes Welker had eight catches for a career postseason-high 131 yards and the defense held Arian Foster to 90 yards rushing, his first sub-100-yard playoff game in the four he's had.

The Patriots also overcame the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who broke the left arm he originally broke on Nov. 18 in a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts and needs season-ending surgery, a person with knowledge of the injury told The Associated Press.

``It's a bummer to lose anybody,'' Brady said, ``but someone of Rob's importance or Danny's importance, we need guys to step in and fill the void, whether it's this game or any game after.''

Gronkowski missed the first game against the Texans, one of five he sat out after his first injury, and it didn't matter.

The Texans were more competitive on Sunday and trailed only 17-13 at halftime as Foster scored on a 1-yard run and Shayne Graham kicked a 55-yard field goal in the last 1:11 before intermission.

But the Patriots scored on two of their first three series in the third quarter on Stevan Ridley's 8-yard run and Brady's 5-yard pass to Brandon Lloyd that made it 31-13.

``We came out in the second half and didn't perform,'' NFL sacks leader J.J. Watt said. ``Losing. I can't stand it. I can't stand any aspect of it. The taste in your mouth is terrible.''

Lloyd scored just six plays after Rob Ninkovich ended a Houston threat with an interception that gave New England the ball at its 37-yard line.

The Patriots needed just one play after taking over on downs early in the fourth quarter, scoring on an outstanding over-the-shoulder catch by Vereen for a 33-yard touchdown and a 38-13 advantage.

The third-string back finished with 124 total yards - 83 on five receptions and 41 on seven carries.

``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.''

The Texans were.

On the very first play, Danieal Manning returned the kickoff 94 yards before being hauled down by Devin McCourty at the Patriots 12. But all the Texans could get out of that was a 27-yard field goal by Shayne Graham.

``That was a huge play by Devin to really end up saving (four) points,'' Belichick said.

The Patriots punted on their first two series then took the lead for good on Vereen's 1-yard run following Brady's consecutive completions of 13 yards to Ridley, 25 to Vereen and 14 to Aaron Hernandez.

The Texans offense got going again in the fourth quarter, but it was too late. Matt Schaub's touchdown passes of 25 yards to DeVier Posey and 1 yard to Foster in the last 12 minutes just made the margin of defeat closer.

``It's difficult to sit here (with) the realization that our season is over,'' Schaub said.

The Patriots' season continues against a team it beat in last year's AFC title game 23-20, but lost to in Week 3 this season 31-30 after leading 30-21 with less than 5 minutes left.

The Ravens advanced with a 38-35 double-overtime win in Denver and will be on the road again, trying to keep Belichick from tying Don Shula with 19 postseason victories. A win would be the 18th for Brady and Belichick together since the Patriots drafted the quarterback in 2000. It also would put him two up on Montana.

``I grew up a 49ers fan,'' Brady said. ``Joe Montana and Steve Young ... those guys are in another class.

``I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization,'' he said. ``I think I've just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted.''

NOTES: The Patriots are 14-3 at home in the playoffs, but just 3-2 in their last five games. ... The Texans were eliminated in their second playoff game for the second straight year after going their first nine seasons without a postseason appearance. ... Schaub threw for 343 yards, one less than Brady. ... Defensive backs Aqib Talib and Steve Gregory led the Patriots with 10 tackles each.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

CB Jimmy Smith expected to play, listed as questionable for Sunday

CB Jimmy Smith expected to play, listed as questionable for Sunday

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, but it appears Smith will play after missing the past two games with a back problem. Smith practiced all week, and head coach John Harbaugh sounded optimistic following Friday’s practice.

“He looks good,” Harbaugh said. “We weren’t sure early in the week if he was going to be able to go, and he just responded well and he looks good. It will mean a lot. It will help our defense. We’ll be really, pretty much, full strength out there.”

Three Ravens were declared out for Sunday’s game — tight end Crockett Gillmore (thigh), left guard Alex Lewis (ankle) and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh).

Meanwhile, backup running back Buck Allen was doubtful due to a non-football issue.

“Buck had a personal issue come up,” Harbaugh said. “That’s the most I want to say about it right now. It’s just something that’s a personal issue right now that he’s dealing with. He may not be able to play in the game. We’re just going to have to see about that, where he’s at with it.”

MORE RAVENS: How Baltimore could still win AFC North

Quick Links

Fantasy Football 2016: Best DFS plays for Week 13

Fantasy Football 2016: Best DFS plays for Week 13

Happy Friday. I'm participating weekly in FanDuel's Daily Fantasy Accuracy Cup (DFAC) along with other fantasy football thinkers. Here are four plays I like and plan on using for Week 13 along with some other options..

Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, 49ers at Bears, $7,800 — Don't look now, but Kaepernick has suddenly morphed into DFS stud. Weird, I know, though the rush yards always boosted his appeal. Over the last four weeks on FanDuel, 23, 24, 19 and 34 points. Two of those performances were on the road, which is why the 49ers head this week. The Bears may not lay out a literal welcome mat, but the defense has allowed two touchdown passes in three straight games. Another mobile QB, Marcus Mariota, rushed for 46 yards against Chicago in Week 12. There's certainly downside risk taking any piece of the 49ers offense especially away from home, but there's a boom hope with Kaepernick at a reasonable cost.

Other quarterbacks: Philip Rivers ($8,200), Alex Smith ($7,000)

Jordan Howard, Running back, Bears vs. 49ers, $7,800 — Sticking with a game nobody outside of the Windy City and Bay Area wants to watch. On the season, San Francisco ranks last against fantasy running backs which is why the all-purpose Howard is interesting, even at a fairly high price (5th among RB) and despite no touchdowns over the last three weeks. Let's also note that the 49ers have been improved in two of the last three weeks, holding Arizona and Miami under 65 yards rushing. That said, Howard has at least 99 yards from scrimmage in each of the last four games. Great chance for big production as Chicago leans on him without Jay Cutler out.

Other running backs: David Johnson ($9,200), Devonta Freeman ($7,500), LeGarrette Blount ($6,600)

Larry Fitzgerald , Wide receiver, Cardinals vs. Redskins, $7,000 — Anybody who's watched Washington's defense of late knows slot receivers are something of a problem. Stefon Diggs, Randall Cobb and Cole Beasley have all thrived. Next up, Arizona's future Hall of Famer. While it's always possible the Redskins move Josh Norman inside, they simply haven't deployed the cornerback in that manner.

Other wide receivers: Julio Jones ($8,300), Brandin Cooks ($6,800), Tyreek Hill ($5,800)

Travis Kelce, Tight end, Chiefs vs. Falcons, $6,300 — Get a piece of what should be a high-scoring game in Week 13? Check. Pick a player who faces a bottom-5 defense against tight ends this season? Check. Snag one of the top remaining talents now that Rob Gronkowsk and Jordan Reed are hurt? Check. Kansas City likely will need to ramp up the pass attempts as Atlanta's offense can score. 

Other tight ends: Coby Fleener ($5,500), Vance McDonald ($4,900)

MORE FANTASY: Crucial fantasy football advice for your playoff push