Final

Texans 28

(12-4, 6-2 away)

Patriots 41

(12-4, 6-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:30 PM ET, January 13, 2013

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 3 10 0 1528
NE 7 10 14 1041

Top Performers

Passing: T. Brady (NE) - 344 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: A. Foster (HOU) - 22 CAR, 90 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: W. Welker (NE) - 8 REC, 131 YDS

Tom Brady wins QB-record 17th playoff game as Pats advance

ESPN.com news services

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady is so good at this playoff thing he seems to be playing for a championship every year.

He gets another chance to lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl after earning his record 17th postseason victory in New England's 41-28 victory over Houston on Sunday. Brady even outdid his childhood hero, Joe Montana, and a fourth NFL championship would equal Montana's haul.

"I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization," said Brady, who threw for three touchdowns and 344 yards. "I think I've just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted."

Next up is Baltimore, which stunned top-seeded Denver in double overtime Saturday, and lost 23-20 at Gillette Stadium last January in the last step before the Super Bowl. But the Ravens beat the Patriots in Week 3 this season at Baltimore.

"I think the two best teams are in the final," Brady said. "Baltimore certainly deserves to be here and so do we."

Seldom-used Shane Vereen scored three times, twice on pinpoint throws from Brady, as New England (13-4) beat Houston (13-5) for the second time in a month.

Brady was missing some key helpers, but got the usual outstanding performance from Wes Welker, his favorite target the last six years. The AFC's top receiver with 118 catches this season, Welker looked like he might reach that total against Houston's befuddled defense. He caught six in the first half for 120 yards, including a 47-yarder, and wound up with eight for 131.

And the AFC East champion Patriots got more than anyone could have predicted from third-string running back Vereen, who scored their first two TDs on a 1-yard run and an 8-yard pass. He capped his biggest pro performance with an over-the-shoulder 33-yard catch early in the fourth period.

Vereen became the third player in postseason history to have two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Vereen joins Roger Craig (1984, San Francisco 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994, 49ers), both of whom did it in the Super Bowl.

The throw to Vereen was Brady's 41st postseason TD pass, behind only Brett Favre (44) and, you guessed it, Montana (45).

Nice company to be keeping.

"I grew up a 49ers fan," Brady said after throwing for three touchdowns in the AFC divisional playoff. "Joe Montana and Steve Young ... those guys are in another class.

"I hope I am around for a few more years," the 35-year-old Brady added with a smile.

The boost from Vereen offset the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski (reinjured left arm) and RB Danny Woodhead (thumb) in the first quarter.

Sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Gronkowski broke his arm again Sunday and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. Pro Football Talk earlier reported that the tight end will need season-ending surgery.

"Shane had a great game, just a huge growing up moment for him, very special," Brady said. "There were a lot of guys who made a lot of plays."

New England's defense helped put away the Texans. Rob Ninkovich's leaping third-quarter interception stopped a drive, and six plays later, Brady hit Brandon Lloyd for a 6-yard score.

Although the Texans got two fourth-quarter TDs on passes by Matt Schaub, their season ended with four defeats in their last six games. That slump cost the AFC South champion the top seed in the playoffs, forcing a trip to New England after it beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round.

The Texans couldn't measure up.

"Whenever the season ends, no matter when, it's really hard," tight end Owen Daniels said. "The farther along you get, the harder it is to take. It's one we wanted to win really bad. It's tough to swallow ... but one team gets to have a smile on their face at the end of the season, and it's not us this year."

Unlike their 42-14 loss here a month ago, the Texans didn't fold early. J.J. Watt, their dominating defensive end, bothered Brady, and when they fell behind 17-3, they had the fortitude to climb back.

Arian Foster did all the work after Danieal Manning's second big kickoff return, this one a 35-yarder that had 15 yards tacked on when kicker Stephen Gostkowski brought down Manning with a horse-collar tackle. The Pro Bowl runner covered all 47 yards on a five-play drive and his 1-yard run -- he barely squeezed into the end zone -- made it 17-10.

Houston forced a three-and-out, and a short punt gave the Texans another shot just before halftime. They got close enough for Shayne Graham to kick a 55-yard field goal as the half ended.

But the Patriots pulled away in the third quarter for coach Bill Belichick's 17th postseason win, third behind Tom Landry (20) and Don Shula (19).

Now come the Ravens.

"It's sweet just playing in the AFC championship," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "It's a team that beat us earlier this year at their house, and a team that's riled up for us."

Needing a quick jolt after being blown out by the Patriots on Dec. 10, the Texans got it on the opening kickoff from Manning. He took the ball 6 yards in his end zone and never hesitated in returning it. He broke free at the Houston 30 and wasn't run down until reaching the New England 12.

That spark didn't even last one play, though, and Houston wound up with Graham's 27-yard field goal 63 seconds in.

And when the Texans closed the first half with a 10-point spurt, they wasted the momentum by allowing a quick touchdown drive to open the third period. Brady went to the familiar (Welker and tight end Aaron Hernandez) on that series before second-year back Stevan Ridley scored on an 8-yard burst.

New England lost Gronkowski and Woodhead almost immediately. Gronkowski missed five regular-season games with a broken left forearm, but returned for the finale. Eight Patriots plays on offense and he was gone again.

So Brady found other targets; he probably could complete passes to Belichick for big gains.

Vereen was an unlikely star. After gaining 400 yards overall during the season, he picked up 124 against the Texans. He had four touchdowns in the regular season.

"I don't come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play," Vereen said. "I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team."

Game notes


Brady is 3-2 in Super Bowls and if he reaches a sixth, he'll join a club that currently totals one player -- defensive tackle Mike Lodish. ... New England has played in eight AFC championship games, going 7-1, including 5-1 with Brady and Belichick. ... Brady threw for 344 yards, and Schaub threw for 343. Schaub's TD passes were 25 yards to DeVier Posey and 1 to Foster. ... Posey left the game late with an injury. The Houston Chronicle reported that he tore his Achilles tendon. ... Foster had 90 yards rushing, the first time in four playoff games he did not reach 100. But his 515 tie for most in a player's first four playoff games with Denver's Terrell Davis.

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
HOU
NE
1st Downs2524
Passing 1st downs
1915
Rushing 1st downs
58
1st downs from Penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
4-156-13
4th down efficiency
3-40-0
Total Plays7565
Total Yards425457
Yards per play5.77.0
Total Drives1412
Passing334335
Comp - Att
34-5125-40
Yards per pass
6.58.4
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks - Yards Lost
1-91-9
Rushing91122
Rushing Attempts
2324
Yards per rush
4.05.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-34-6
Penalties3-205-56
Turnovers10
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession31:2428:36

Passing Leaders

HOUC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Schaub34/513436.7211-9
NEC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Brady25/403448.6301-9

Rushing Leaders

HOUCARYDSAVGTDLG
Foster22904.1121
Schaub111.001
NECARYDSAVGTDLG
Ridley15825.5123
Vereen7415.9122

Receiving Leaders

HOURECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Johnson89511.902211
Daniels9819.002415
NERECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Welker813116.404713
Hernandez68514.20409

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERHOUNE
houFG13:57Shayne Graham 27 Yd 30
neTD01:28Shane Vereen 1 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 37
SECOND QUARTERHOUNE
neFG10:16Stephen Gostkowski 37 Yd 310
neTD03:38Shane Vereen 8 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 317
houTD01:15Arian Foster 1 Yd Run (Shayne Graham Kick) 1017
houFG00:00Shayne Graham 55 Yd 1317
THIRD QUARTERHOUNE
neTD11:30Stevan Ridley 8 Yd Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1324
neTD01:21Brandon Lloyd 5 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1331
FOURTH QUARTERHOUNE
neTD13:07Shane Vereen 33 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick) 1338
houTD11:35DeVier Posey 25 Yd Pass From Matt Schaub (Shayne Graham Kick) 2038
houTD05:11Arian Foster 1 Yd Pass From Matt Schaub (Matt Schaub Pass To Andre Johnson For Two-Point Conversion) 2838
neFG01:14Stephen Gostkowski 38 Yd 2841

Research Notes

Houston burst out of the gate this season, winning 11 of its 1st 12 games. It was all downhill from there though - the Texans dropped 4 of their final 6 contests and their stingy defense turned porous, allowing nearly 10 more points per game.
  [+]
For the seventh time in the Belichick-Brady era, the Patriots are in the AFC Championship game where they've been extraordinarily successful there, even before 2000. Among teams with five conference championship appearances, only the Giants have a better record with the Super Bowl on the line.
  [+]
Tom Brady completed 12-of-19 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns against five or more pass rushers, while facing such pressure on 46 percent of his dropbacks. The Texans did not adjust their pressure against Brady after getting burned when sending frequent extra pressure against him in Week 14. Brady has now thrown 22 touchdowns in 170 attempts against five or more pass rushers this season (including playoffs), with no interceptions. --Brady connected on three passing plays for 30-plus yards against the Texans' pressure Sunday. The Texans had allowed a league-worst 18 passing plays of at least 30 yards when sending five or more pass rushers during the regular season.
  [+]
Patriots' running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen combined for 219 yards from scrimmage (48 percent of the Patriots offense) and four touchdowns, while showcasing an inside running game the Patriots haven't had in recent postseason appearances. 113 of their 123 rushing yards came inside the tackles for more than 6 yards per rush, the highest totals by Patriots backs in any of their previous five postseason games. --The Patriots' running backs averaged just under 100 rushing yards per game inside the tackles during the regular season, and had seven games of at least 100 yards on such runs, tied for third most in the league.
  [+]
The Patriots lined up running back Shane Vereen out wide Sunday, specifically taking advantage of linebacker Barrett Ruud on a 33-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline in the fourth quarter. Vereen collected 58 receiving yards on two receptions and a touchdown when split out wide, only the third touchdown this season and the most receiving yards in a game for a running back lined up wide over the last three seasons (including playoffs).
Even though Rob Gronkowski left the game with 8:10 left in the first quarter, Tom Brady was still very effective with two or more tight ends on the field. Brady threw for a season-high 244 yards and tied a season-high with three touchdowns with two or more tight ends after Gronkowski's injury. The Patriots used multiple tight end sets on 56-of-65 plays (86.2 percent), their second-highest percentage of the season.
Matt Schaub was 7-of-12 for 71 yards and an interception on third down Sunday, converting only three of the attempts for first downs. In the Week 14 matchup against the Patriots, Schaub converted only one of his seven third down pass attempts for a first down.
  [+]
The Patriots used their up-tempo offense effectively, especially in the red zone, scoring four touchdowns in five possessions (not counting possession with kneel down). During the regular season, they scored a touchdown on 70 percent of their red zone possessions, the highest rate in the NFL.
Danieal Manning had 216 kickoff return yards, the 3rd-most in a postseason game.
  [+]
Bill Belichick reaches his 7th conference championship game, tied for the 2nd-most all-time among head coaches.
  [+]
Tom Brady has his 5th 300-yard game in the postseason, tied for the 3rd-most all-time.
  [+]
From Elias: Shane Vereen: 3rd player in NFL postseason history to have 2 receiving TD and a rushing TD in the same game. The other 2 are Roger Craig (1984 49ers) and Ricky Watters (1994 49ers), who each did so in the Super Bowl.
Shane Vereen: 1st player with 2 TD catches and a TD run in a playoff game since Ricky Watters (1994 49ers Super Bowl XXIX)
Shane Vereen is the 2nd Patriots player with at least 1 rushing TD and 1 receiving TD in a playoff game. Deion Branch also did it in the 2004 AFC Championship game.

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