Final

Texans 7

(4-10, 2-6 away)

Patriots 40

(10-4, 5-3 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, December 17, 2006

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 0 0 7 07
NE 17 10 7 640

Top Performers

Passing: D. Carr (HOU) - 127 YDS, 4 INT

Rushing: R. Dayne (HOU) - 18 CAR, 94 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: K. Faulk (NE) - 2 REC, 46 YDS, 1 TD

Mistake-free Patriots get healthy with rout of Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Ellis Hobbs needed just 12 seconds on his kickoff return to leave behind his pursuers and memories of the Patriots' worst loss of the season.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...
Turnovers turned out to be the backbreaker for the Texans. With David Carr (right) connecting on 57 percent of his passes, it was the four interceptions that prevented the game from being close. Houston's only drive that lasted more than six plays resulted in its only touchdown, after gaining 70 yards in 10 plays.

While the Texans gained six first downs on their TD drive, they managed to post just seven more for the rest of the game. Showing a good mix of zone blitzes along with tight man coverage, the Patriots managed to confuse Carr just enough.

That's how long it took him to run 93 yards for a touchdown on the play after the Houston Texans' only touchdown. New England went on to a 40-7 win Sunday one week after a 21-0 loss at Miami.

"It was the antithesis of last week," said Tom Brady, who threw two touchdown passes. "There was really enthusiasm right from the start."

The Patriots (10-4) led 27-0 at halftime, their biggest margin at intermission in 59 games, but Ron Dayne scored on a 1-yard run on the Texans' first series of the third quarter.

"You want to respond," Hobbs said. "You don't want [their] offense to get momentum, feel like they can do something. That's a big downer for them, a big morale lifter for us."

The Texans (4-10) had hoped their best drive of the game could get them back in it. But Hobbs followed a block he hoped Willie Andrews would make -- attributing it to "telekinesis" between the two.

"I guess he just read my mind and got over there and hit him," said Hobbs, whose interception later in the third quarter led to the third of Stephen Gostkowski's four field goals in four attempts.

"We came out in the third quarter and finally executed," Houston coach Gary Kubiak said, "but then Hobbs had the kick return, and it went right back to where it started."

After a six-week stretch in which the Patriots were just 3-3 with 19 turnovers, they committed no turnovers Sunday while forcing David Carr into four interceptions. They can clinch the AFC East title next Sunday with a win at Jacksonville.

In the first half, Kevin Faulk scored on an 11-yard run and a 43-yard play on a screen pass, and Brady threw another touchdown pass, covering 6 yards to Jabar Gaffney. The defense had four sacks and three interceptions and held the Texans to 76 yards in the first two quarters.

"It was one of the worst professional performances I've ever been part of," Houston defensive tackle Anthony Maddox said. "We played like trash."

Benjamin Watson, the Patriots top pass catcher, missed the game with a knee injury, and nose tackle Vince Wilfork sat out with an ankle injury. Safety Rodney Harrison, recovering from a broken shoulder blade, missed his sixth game, and running back Lawrence Maroney was sidelined for his second in a row with torn rib cartilage.

The Patriots didn't miss them. Hobbs replaced Maroney on kickoff returns and Mike Wright had a sack as Wilfork's replacement.

Maybe coach Bill Belichick's unusually demanding approach to practice last week paid off. He even reminded his players that the Patriots were the only team that hadn't scored on defense or special teams.

"At least we won't have to listen to that this week," Brady said.

Not on Monday, anyway. Belichick gave his players the day off for the second time because of a win, the other after a 17-13 victory over Chicago on Nov. 26.

"They're called victory Mondays," fullback Heath Evans said.

The Texans were coming off a good performance in a 26-20 overtime loss to surging Tennessee. But they managed just one touchdown one play before Hobbs scored.

That "took the wind out of us," Houston cornerback Dexter McCleon said.

The Patriots led 17-0 after one quarter on Faulk's touchdowns and Gostkowski's 36-yard field goal. Gostkowski added a 32-yarder and Brady threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Gaffney 1:11 before intermission.

"I let myself get out of the game plan," Carr said. "We were so far behind, I started to try and make plays that weren't there."

The Patriots committed just two penalties after having 23 the previous three weeks.

"Our main goal," Hobbs said, was that "we would not cost us the game. They would have to beat us today and any time we could get to situations where we have to make them beat us, it's very hard to beat us."

Tom Brady was replaced by Matt Cassel midway through the fourth quarter and Vinny Testaverde went in for Cassel later. Brady threw for only 109 yards after being held to 78 a week earlier. This week, though, he didn't need any more.

"There's no way in the world they were going to play that way" again, Houston safety Jason Simmons said. "Tom Brady wouldn't let them."

Game notes


The last time the Patriots led by at least 27 points at halftime was on Dec. 27, 2003 when they were ahead 28-0 in a 31-0 win over Buffalo. ... On Houston's scoring drive, Carr went 4-for-4 and Dayne ran six times for 34 yards. ... Asante Samuel's NFL-leading eighth interception led to Gostkowski's 21-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. ... Each team rushed for 105 yards.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
HOU
NE
1st Downs1315
Passing 1st downs
78
Rushing 1st downs
66
1st downs from penalties
01
3rd down efficiency
3-117-17
4th down efficiency
0-11-2
Total Plays5466
Total Yards198230
Yards per play3.73.5
Total Drives1514
Passing93125
Comp-Att
16-2819-27
Yards per pass
2.94.5
Interceptions thrown
40
Sacks-Yards Lost
4-341-4
Rushing105105
Rushing Attempts
2238
Yards per rush
4.82.8
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-12-6
Penalties4-662-10
Turnovers40
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
40
Defensive / Special Teams TDs01
Possession24:0735:53

Passing Leaders

HOUC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Carr16/281274.5044-34
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady16/231094.7201-4
Cassel3/4205.0000-0

Rushing Leaders

HOUCARYDSAVGTDLG
Dayne18945.2119
Lundy3113.706
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Dillon20613.1015
Evans8243.0011

Receiving Leaders

HOURECYDSAVGTDLG
Johnson5285.609
Anderson12727.0027
NERECYDSAVGTDLG
Faulk24623.0143
Caldwell6254.208

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERHOUNE
neTD8:11Kevin Faulk, 11 yd run (Stephen Gostkowski kick is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 42 yds, 3:05
07
neFG6:42Stephen Gostkowski 36 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 6 yds, 1:15
010
neTD3:40Kevin Faulk, 43 yd pass from Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski kick is good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 44 yds, 0:43
017
SECOND QUARTERHOUNE
neFG9:51Stephen Gostkowski 32 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 17 yds, 3:05
020
neTD1:15Jabar Gaffney, 6 yd pass from Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski kick is good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 67 yds, 3:39
027
THIRD QUARTERHOUNE
houTD9:54Ron Dayne, 1 yd run (Kris Brown kick is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 70 yds, 5:11
727
neTD9:49Ellis Hobbs, 93 yd kickoff return (Stephen Gostkowski kick is good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 93 yds, 0:00
734
FOURTH QUARTERHOUNE
neFG14:22Stephen Gostkowski 31 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 15 yds, 3:38
737
neFG12:03Stephen Gostkowski 21 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 4 plays, 2 yds, 1:32
740