Pats Beat Houston, Host Baltimore For AFC Title
Sunday, January 13, 2013
CBS executives may not be thrilled, but Patriots fans certainly are. There will be no Brady-Manning AFC Championship game next Sunday, but the road to Super Bowl 47 will go through Foxboro in the AFC.
Sunday, New England took care of business at home by beating the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. That win, paired with Baltimore’s upset in Denver Saturday means the AFC Championship Game will be held next Sunday at Gillette Stadium at 6:30pm. It’s a rematch of last year’s AFC title game.
This one wasn’t quite the laugher that the Monday night beat-down in Foxboro was in early December. Still, it was a game the Patriots were in control of most of the way.
After a 94-yard kick-off return to open the game by Houston’s Danieal Manning, the Texans had to settle for a field goal after the Pats defense held. It was a moral victory for New England.
After a pair of possessions for each offense, the Pats got on the scoreboard when Shane Vereen capped off a 65-yard scoring drive with a 1-yard TD run to make it 7-3 Patriots.
While the Pats defense held Houston’s offense in check, New England’s offense would add scores on their next two drives with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal making iy 10-3 followed by a Vereen TD reception from Tom Brady to make it 17-3 with less than 4 minutes to go in the half.
After another solid kick return by Danieal followed by a 15-yard penalty on Gostkowski for a horse-collar tackle, the Texans set up shop at the Pats 47-yard line. Five playes later, Arian Foster punched it in from 1-yard out to make it 17-10 New England.
The Pats next possession was a curious one at best. Taking over at their own 26 with 1:15 to go in the half, New England appeared content to run out the clock despite having Tom Brady at quarterback and two timeouts remaining.
After a first down run, Pats fans booed the decision and, apparently, Josh McDaniels reconsidered his thinking. Two incomplete passes later, Zoltan Mesko’s short punt went out of bounds at the Houston 38 with :24 seconds left.
Armed with all three timeouts, the Texans needed just four plays to get the ball within field goal range. Shane Graham split the uprights as time expired in the half making it 17-13 Pats at the break.
But, as the Patriots do quite often, the scored on their opening drive of the third quarter when Stevan Ridley ran it in from 8 yards out. They would score touchdowns on two of their next three drives as well to blow it open 38-13 early in the fourth.
New England would hang on for the easy 41-28 win.
-Unlike most of the season, it was all hands on deck Sunday for the Patriots who had their full compliment of players. Injuries have piled up on the Pats this season but the team has been able to fight their way through them. Sunday, Bill Belichick essentially had all of his top guns available to him. However, TE Rob Gronkoswski re-injured his broken forearm and will require surgery taking him out of the remainder of the postseason. RB Danny Woodhead also suffered a thumb injury and DE Chandler Jones hurt his ankle in the second quarter.
-Sunday’s win was Tom Brady’s NFL-record 17th postseason victory giving him more playoff wins than any quarterback in NFL history. Brady (17-6) passed his boyhood idol Joe Montana who won 16 playoff games in his illustrious career. Montana’s overall playoff mark was (16-7). It’s worth mentioning that Brady did start his career a perfect (10-0) and has since gone (7-6).
-Saturday it was announced that Vince Wilfork was the only Patriots player to be named a first-team All-Pro according to the Associated Press. Logan Mankins was named to the second team. Quarterback Tom Brady finished third in the voting at his position behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, both of whom will be watching the conference championship games from their living room couches next Sunday.
-If the Patriots were to win next Sunday, it would be the fourth time that they would be playing in the Super Bowl in the city of New Orleans. Following the 1985 season, Raymond Berry’s Patriots lost 46-10 to the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl 20 at the Superdome. Following the 1996 campaign, Bill Parcells led the Patriots back to the Crescent City where they lost to the Green Bay Packers 35-21 in Super Bowl 31. Of course, the most memorable game in franchise history also took place in New Orleans where the Patriots stunned the heavily favored St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl 36 following the 2001 season.
-The Patriots franchise record in AFC Championship games is an impressive (7-1) all time. They’re also a perfect (4-0) at home. The Pats only loss in the conference title game came following the 2006 season when they were beaten by the Indianapolis Colts 38-34 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Of teams that have played in the AFC title game, only Cincinnati (2-0) has a better winning percentage than the Pats (.857). Only the Pittsburgh Steelers (15 games, 8-7) and the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (11 games, 4-7) have played in more conference championship games than New England.
-The Patriots and Ravens met early in the season with Baltimore beating the Pats 31-30 on September 23rd.