Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes as the New England Patriots routed Houston 42-14 to move within one game of the Texans in the American Football Conference.
Aaron Hernandez scored two of six touchdowns last night for the Patriots, who won 40-7 in 2006 on Houston’s only prior visit to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
The Patriots extended their unbeaten streak in the National Football League to seven games while ending the Texans’ run of six wins. Houston is 11-2, while the Patriots and Denver are 10-3, with New England holding a tiebreaker over the Broncos for second seed in the AFC. The Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens have 9-4 marks.
“We rushed, we covered, we tackled,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters. ``I thought we were physical out there and we played a solid football game.’’
Quarterback Brady completed New England’s opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Hernandez. Houston’s next possession ended with an interception on the Patriots’ 1-yard line as Devin McCourty picked off a pass from Matt Schaub that was intended for Kevin Walter in the end zone.
The Patriots took advantage as Brady found Brandon Lloyd on a 37-yard play for a touchdown before hooking up with Hernandez again from four yards to make it three touchdowns on as many drives for the home team.
Houston then stopped New England from gaining a first down on its next three possessions to end the half trailing 21-0. It was the first time this season that the Texans, who began the game with the second-most points per game in the league after the Patriots, failed to score in the first half.
On their 12th play of the second half, Brady threw a long pass to Donte’ Stallworth, who sprinted about 30 yards for a 63- yard score. The Patriots cut 32-year-old Stallworth on Aug. 27 and re-signed him Dec. 3, a day after Julian Edelman suffered a season-ending foot fracture against the Miami Dolphins.
Less than four minutes later, Houston running back Arian Foster scored from the 1 for his league-best 14th rushing touchdown of the season. He’s also caught two scoring passes.
New England’s next score came 45 seconds into the fourth quarter. Brady tossed the ball to Danny Woodhead, who dodged two tacklers before J.J. Watt forced a fumble, only for the ball to bounce into the end zone, where it was recovered by Lloyd for the touchdown.
Running back Stevan Ridley got the last touchdown of the night for New England with a weaving 14-yard dash with 7:23 to play to make it 42-7. Ridley is tied with injured tight end Rob Gronkowski with a team-high 10 touchdowns this season.
Brady, who left the game with 5:09 to play in the fourth quarter, completed 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards.
His replacement, Ryan Mallett, was intercepted on his fifth play and Houston backup quarterback T.J. Yates converted the error into a touchdown on a 1-yard run to complete the scoring.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org
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