FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- If the three other NFL teams with a first-round playoff bye were looking for a way to motivate their players heading into the divisional playoffs, New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo gave them a pointer on Wednesday.
"Those guys have won a playoff game. We're 0-0," Mayo said. "So I guess that's our chip. We know a hungry Texans team is going to come in here ready to play."
The Patriots, of course, helped earn their bye week and home-field advantage in this game by defeating the Texans, 42-14, last month. The Patriots couldn't have hoped for much more, but Mayo pointed out the danger in the Texans having unfinished business.
"I'm sure those guys have been talking all week about how they want to play this game," Mayo said. "We know the last game could have been a lot closer than it was. There were plays in the game that kind of bounced our way. We know this a good team coming in, and we have to be prepared and ready to go."
One of those Texans players who will be returning to New England on Sunday is running back Arian Foster, a former teammate of Mayo at Tennessee. The two became friends by accident, finding themselves among the last to leave the Vols' facility each night.
"I've always thought highly of Arian as a running back. Obviously now you guys get to see what he can do. I went against him every day in 1-on-1s. I think he's always been a good player," Mayo said. "He's probably more patient now. He's lost a couple of pounds. He might have been a little heavier in college. He's faster now as well."
The Patriots' defense allowed Foster, the NFL's sixth-leading rusher this season, to start the game with runs of 12 and 15 yards, the first of which was nullified by an illegal-formation penalty. The Patriots' lead rapidly grew as the game went on, and Foster was held to just 46 yards on 15 carries.
"They started off the game with two big runs. One of them was called back on a penalty. But they did an excellent job," Mayo said. "When you're playing catch-up, I think it makes a team one-dimensional, and I think that's what happened."
It's unlikely that the Patriots will be able to create such a large advantage so early this time, meaning that containing Foster will remain a top priority for the defense.
"He makes a lot of cuts where he makes the offensive line look good," Mayo said. "I'd like to liken his running style to water. He's not that guy who is going to stick real hard. He's going to be patient until the hole develops, and makes the whole team better."