Patriots rout Texans in key AFC matchup


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Look out. That familiar sight is the New England Patriots romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team.

The Patriots rolled over Houston 42-14 on Monday night, stamping themselves once again as the team to fear in the AFC — and making the Texans look like pretenders.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 296 yards as New England manhandled the team with the league’s best record. The Patriots (10-3), who already own the AFC East title, won their seventh straight and moved one game behind the Texans (11-2) for the conference’s top seed.

“It’s a Monday night game,” Brady said. “We have played in a lot of big games in December.”

A matchup of the top two scoring teams in the league was a mismatch from the outset. It took New England only one possession to start its scoring barrage as the Patriots surpassed their average of 35.8 points per game.

Wes Welker’s 31-yard punt return and 25-yard reception — the 107th straight game he’s had a catch — led to Aaron Hernandez’s 7-yard score. That gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a TD pass, third longest in NFL history.

Houston, which had won six straight, threatened on its next series, only to have Matt Schaub force a ball into double coverage in the Patriots’ end zone. Devin McCourty picked it off and returned it 19 yards, setting up more pinpoint throws by Brady, who finished 21 of 35.

He couldn’t miss if he tried, his receivers were so uncovered: Brandon Lloyd for 14 yards, Danny Woodhead for 18, Hernandez for 13, then Lloyd for the 37-yard TD to make it 14-0. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could only shake his head in disgust at his players’ inability to challenge the Patriots.

It got worse. At the end of a 70-yard drive helped by a 26-yard interference call on Danieal Manning, no Texans were lined up to Brady’s left in front of Hernandez. A quick snap, a quicker pass and the tight end waltzed into the end zone.

Patriots 42, Texans 14

Houston 0 0 7 7 — 14

New England 14 7 7 14 — 42

First quarter

NE—Hernandez 7 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 9:27.

NE—Lloyd 37 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 2:49.

Second quarter

NE—Hernandez 4 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 11:01.

Third quarter

NE—Stallworth 63 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 9:49.

Hou—Foster 1 run (S.Graham kick), 6:12.

Fourth quarter

NE—Lloyd fumble recovery in end zone (Gostkowski kick), 14:15.

NE—Ridley 14 run (Gostkowski kick), 7:23.

Hou—Yates 1 run (S.Graham kick), 2:00.

A—68,756.

Hou NE

First downs 19 27

Total Net Yards 323 419

Rushes-yards 27-100 33-130

Passing 223 289

Punt Returns 2-1 4-50

Kickoff Returns 2-39 1-7

Interceptions Ret. 1-1 1-19

Comp-Att-Int 21-36-1 21-36-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 2-24 1-7

Punts 7-49.3 5-48.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-0

Penalties-Yards 7-70 6-56

Time of Possession 29:11 30:49

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Houston, Foster 15-46, Tate 8-46, Forsett 3-7, Yates 1-1. New England, Ridley 18-72, Vereen 8-40, Bolden 2-11, Brady 1-6, Woodhead 1-4, Mallett 3-(minus 3).

PASSING—Houston, Schaub 19-32-1-232, Yates 2-4-0-15. New England, Brady 21-35-0-296, Mallett 0-1-1-0.

RECEIVING—Houston, Johnson 8-95, Foster 4-39, Jean 2-31, Daniels 2-24, Casey 1-30, Posey 1-19, Forsett 1-14, Tate 1-(minus 1), Martin 1-(minus 4). New England, Hernandez 8-58, Lloyd 7-89, Welker 3-52, Woodhead 2-34, Stallworth 1-63.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.