The New England Patriots are heading to the AFC Championship Game after defeating the Houston Texans 41-28 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Led by Tom Brady's three touchdown passes, the Patriots cruised past the Texans and are now just one win away from their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Brady completed 25 passes for 344 yards on the evening to go along with his three touchdowns. Wes Welker was his favorite target, as the slot receiver picked up 131 yards, but Aaron Hernandez added 85 of his own and Shane Vereen scored twice out of the backfield.
It wasn't all good news for the Patriots, though. Rob Gronkowski's postseason came to an end as he re-injured his forearm and Danny Woodhead was also hurt, but otherwise it was a great day in New England.
Houston actually got off to the good start thanks to Danieal Manning, who was dangerous on kick off returns all evening. Manning returned the opening kick to the New England 12, but a dropped touchdown pass helped the Patriots hold the Texans to a field goal.
From there, it was all Patriots as Brady led them to three consecutive scoring drives. First he led them 65 yards, capped by a Vereen one-yard touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. An 80-yard drive followed, which resulted in a 37-yard Steven Gostkowski field goal. Finally, Brady took New England another 80 yards and this time found the endzone, spotting Vereen for eight yards and six points to put the Patriots up 17-3.
Houston did try to make a game of it before halftime with an Arian Foster touchdown run and last-second field goal, but New England dashed any hopes they may have had early in the second half.
The third quarter started with an incomplet pass, but Brady followed that with four consecutive completions to move the Patriots to the Houston 12-yard line. Two Stevan Ridley carries later and New England was back in the endzone and back in control, up 24-13.
Another touchdown pass just before the end of the quarter extended the Patriots lead further and he added one more just for good measure at the start of the fourth quarter to put them up 38-13.
With the game essentially over, Houston found some offense. They scored twice and added a two-point conversation to cut the lead to 38-28, but it wasn't nearly enough. A late Patriots field goal put a bow on the game and New England was AFC Championship Game bound.