FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The New England Patriots have reached the AFC Championship for the sixth straight year by defeating the Houston Texans 34-16 at home.
Despite the chilly conditions, the atmosphere was electric at Gillette Stadium Saturday night.
RB Dion Lewis was a workhorse for New England, becoming the fifth player in team history to score three touchdowns in a postseason game. He did so in three ways: through the air, on the ground, and with a 98-yard kickoff return, becoming the first player to do that in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era.
Despite the win, QB Tom Brady said the team made too many mistakes and they have a lot of work to do to prepare for next Sunday.
“We’re never going to turn the ball over as many times as we did and think that we had a good game,” he said after the game.
Brady completed just 18 of 38 passes for 237 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Head coach Bill Belichick shared a similar sentiment when he took the podium.
“We have to play better, coach better than we did tonight,” said Belichick.
“It was good to win this game and be able to move on,” he added. “Got to give these guys a lot of credit. We didn’t play particularly well, but we hung in there.”
Texans defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who spent the first 11 years of his career with the Patriots, hinted at a possible retirement after the loss.
“I think I played my last NFL football game,” said Wilfork, adding that he plans to take some time to reflect before making his decision.
It was a record-setting night for WR Julian Edelman. His eight receptions brought him to 76 on his career in the postseason, making him the Patriots’ all-time leader and tying him with Thurman Thomas for 7th in NFL history.
The Patriots got the scoring started in the first quarter with a screen pass from Brady to Lewis, who cruised into the end zone from 13 yards out.
After a Texans drive resulted in a field goal, Lewis responded with a 98-yard return on the kickoff. It was the first kick return for a touchdown in Patriots postseason history.
Despite the hot start, Lewis literally dropped the ball in the second quarter, fumbling on a kick return after Houston’s second field goal. The advantageous field position allowed Houston to close the gap with a touchdown pass from QB Brock Osweiler to TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, making the score 14-13.
“We made a lot of mistakes, a little sloppy out there today,” Lewis said after the game. “In order to advance next week, we have to play a lot better than we did today.”
The Patriots closed the first half by driving down the field to within the 1-yard line, but they were stuffed by the Texans defense and had to settle for a field goal.
New England’s defense was relentless in the second half, reeling in three interceptions and holding the Texans to only a field goal.
A 19-yard touchdown reception for RB James White extended New England’s lead in the third quarter, while a 1-yard TD run from Lewis and another Stephen Gostkowski field goal put the game out of reach.
It was the Patriots’ second win against the Texans this season, after rookie QB Jacoby Brissett – making his first career start – led the team to a 27-0 win in Week 3.