The New England Patriots possessed the #1 offense in the NFL this season, averaging 427.9 ypg and 34.8 ppg. The Houston Texans knew first hand what they were capable of, having giving up 42 points to the Patriots in week 14. The Texans were hoping for a better result in their return trip to Foxborough. The final score was closer, but Houston once again couldn’t keep up with New England in a 41-28 loss that eliminated them from the post-season.
New England’s offense capitalized on a no-huddle, hurry up offense that caught the Texans defense out of position time and time again. Combined with the Patriots exploiting match-ups outside with their running backs on Houston’s linebackers, the New England offense was a puzzle that the Texans once again failed to solve. Patriots RB Shane Vereen scored three touchdowns, including two receiving, to send the Patriots to a match-up with the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row.
The Texans see their season end on the road in the Divisional Round for the second consecutive season. A 17-13 New England halftime lead ballooned to 38-13 before Houston rallied to cut it to 38-28 in the fourth quarter. However it was too little, too late as New England showed the Texans that they still have another level to reach if they want to be the top dog in the AFC.
Houston’s offense played better than they did in the 42-14 week 14 loss by compiling 425 total yards. The inability to convert on third down hurt them however, as they went 4-15. Matt Schaub threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns, but had a costly second half interception that led to a Patriots touchdown that in all but put the game out of reach. Arian Foster had 90 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including one receiving.
However, the Patriots one-two running back punch of Vereen and Stevan Ridley did more damage, combining for four touchdowns, 123 rushing yards and 96 receiving yards. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did an excellent job isolating the Texans linebackers in single coverage with Vereen and Aaron Hernandez. Brady passed for 343 yards and 3 touchdowns to become the all-time leader in quarterback playoff wins with 17 post-season victories. He passed up Joe Montana on that prestigious list.
The Texans meanwhile, saw the best season in franchise history come to an end at 13-5. This game, and the one in December, showed that they are still a step behind the Patriots as a team and organization. Of course there is no shame in that, as New England has been a dominant force for over a decade, as they have posted double digit win totals ten seasons in a row. They have won four AFC titles and two Super Bowls in that same ten year period.
Houston is coming off of their first back to back winning seasons and playoff appearances. They are headed in the right direction, and after back to back divisional round appearances, are not that far away from being a Super Bowl team. In order to get to the next level and be able to catch the Patriots, they will need to continue building on that success and make slight adjustments to the roster.
Belichick and Brady are not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so in order for Houston to get to where they want to go, they’re going to have to find a way to beat them. Sunday showed that they’re not quite on New England’s level yet. For the longest, the rabbit that the Texans were chasing was Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. That was the obstacle that was preventing them from getting to the playoffs.
Now that they have made themselves a regular in the playoffs, Brady and the Patriots are the rabbit they will have to chase down to make it to the Super Bowl. Sunday showed they are not quite on New England’s level yet. All in all,it was a good season that came up a little short. However, this off-season, the Texans will need to strap on their running shoes, because they have a big obstacle to chase down and hurdle. See you next year Brady.