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Patriots Outgun Texans, Advance to AFC Title Game

You’ve heard this story before. The Patriots are headed to the AFC Championship game.

This year’s divisional round victim was different, but the result was the same, as the New England Patriots prevailed in a shootout with the Houston Texans 41-28 on Sunday. The win marked Tom Brady’s record-setting 17th career playoff victory and placed him and the perennial power Pats on the doorstep of another Super Bowl appearance.

“I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization,” said Brady via ESPN.com. “I think I’ve just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted.”

Brady and the Patriots were without some of their deadliest weapons for most of the game, as monster tight end Rob Gronkowski and shifty back Danny Woodhead went down with injuries in the first quarter. In typical New England fashion, other players rose to the occasion in their absence, namely Shane Vereen, who had a coming out party with three total touchdowns on the night.

“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.”

Brady is well on his way to a 6th Super Bowl appearance, which would set another NFL record

Brady wasn’t too shabby himself, completing 25 of 40 throws for 344 yards and three touchdowns. His final TD of the night to Vereen was his 41st in the playoffs, leaving him only four behind Joe Montana for the all-time mark and with what may very well be two games left in this postseason, he could easily set that record this year as well.

The Texans didn’t do much to stop New England, giving up just one-point fewer than their 42-14 defeat to the Pats a few weeks ago during the regular season, but their offense did battle back late and made a game of it, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. After starting as one of the league’s best teams, the Texans ended the season by dropping four of its last six games and were bounced from the divisional round for a second consecutive year.

“Whenever the season ends, no matter when, it’s really hard,” Houston 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.”

The only bad news for New England going forward is that Gronkowski will miss the remainder of the postseason with a broken arm. That will certainly limit their offensive effectiveness, but for a team that’s already supremely effective, it may not hamper them enough to lose.

New England advanced to face the Baltimore Ravens next week in the AFC title game and it was glad to hear the Ravens upended the Denver Broncos on Saturday because that means the game will take place at Gillette Stadium. Most of the Patriot players also wanted another shot at one of the few teams that beat them earlier this season.

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

The lines aren’t out yet, but you can be sure New England will be a strong favorite and with they way they are playing, I wouldn’t bet against them to reach the Promised Land once again.


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