8:30 PM ET, December 10, 2012
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Look out. That familiar sight is the New England Patriots romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team.
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The Patriots rolled over Houston 42-14 on Monday night, stamping themselves once again as the team to fear in the AFC -- and making the Texans look like pretenders.
Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 296 yards as New England manhandled the team with the league's best record. The Patriots (10-3), who already own the AFC East title, won their seventh straight and moved one game behind the Texans (11-2) for the conference's top seed.
"It's a Monday night game," Brady said. "We have played in a lot of big games in December."
A matchup of the top two scoring teams in the league was a mismatch from the outset. It took New England only one possession to start its scoring barrage as the Patriots surpassed their average of 35.8 points per game.
"It needs to come together now, this is the perfect time for it," added Brady, who became a father for the third time last Wednesday when his wife, Gisele gave birth to Vivian Lake.
"She is doing very well," Brady said. "It's been a great week, a great way to end it."
Wes Welker's 31-yard punt return and 25-yard reception -- the 107th straight game he's had a catch -- led to Aaron Hernandez's 7-yard score. That gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a TD pass, third longest in NFL history.
It also set the tone.
Four Times A Brady
With his 18th four-touchdown performance, Tom Brady surpassed Johnny Unitas on the all-time list for most four-touchdown games.
Houston, which had won six straight, threatened on its next series, only to have Matt Schaub force a ball into double coverage in the Patriots' end zone. Devin McCourty picked it off and returned it 19 yards, setting up more pinpoint throws by Brady, who finished 21 of 35.
He couldn't miss if he tried, his receivers were so uncovered: Brandon Lloyd for 14 yards, Danny Woodhead for 18, Hernandez for 13, then Lloyd for the 37-yard TD to make it 14-0. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could only shake his head in disgust at his players' inability to challenge the Patriots.
It got worse. At the end of a 70-yard drive helped by a 26-yard interference call on Danieal Manning, no Texans were lined up to Brady's left in front of Hernandez. A quick snap, a quicker pass and the tight end waltzed into the end zone.
New England was headed for its 20th successive home win in December, and its 21st straight victory in the second half of the schedule.
"These guys feel really good about the way they played tonight and they should," coach Bill Belichick said.
SportsNation: Patriots On Top?
The Patriots took care of business against the Texans on Monday night. Are they the AFC's best team?
• Cast your votes!
Houston was headed back home wondering not only how it could measure up to a perennial championship contender in the future, but if it could hold off surging Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Texans have a two-game lead but face the Colts (9-4) on Sunday in Houston, then in the season finale at Indianapolis.
"We got our tails kicked," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "When you've got an opportunity to make a big play, you can't miss it against a team of this magnitude. We turned around and it was 21-0 pretty quick."
Although the Texans have clinched at least a wild-card berth, they haven't had a truly convincing win since October. This was a convincing defeat, however -- although they got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive capped by Arian Foster's 1-yard run.
The Houston Texans became the first team since 2007 to be 10 games over. 500 and lose by at least 28 points. Here are all the teams that share that unfortunate distinction since 2000:
By then the Patriots had their fourth TD, a gorgeous 63-yard throw to Donte' Stallworth, who was re-signed last week to replace injured Julian Edelman. It gave Brady his 18th game with at least four TD passes, moving ahead of Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas for fourth all time.
Brady nearly had a fifth as Woodhead broke free on a screen pass early in the fourth period. Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt, who was pretty much invisible otherwise, forced a fumble, but the ball soared 11 yards into the end zone, where Lloyd fell on it for a 35-7 lead.
Stevan Ridley made it 42-7 with a 14-yard run. The Texans have allowed 42 points in both losses, the other coming against Green Bay on Oct. 14.
Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates scored on a 1-yard run with 2:00 remaining to close the scoring.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.0||6.0|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||0-0||0-0|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||1|
|TD||9:31||Aaron Hernandez 7 Yard Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 56 yds, 3:12
|TD||2:55||Brandon Lloyd 37 Yard Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 82 yds, 2:41
|TD||11:04||Aaron Hernandez 4 Yard Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 70 yds, 3:59
|TD||10:00||Donte Stallworth 63 Yard Pass From Tom Brady (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 74 yds, 1:05
|TD||6:15||Arian Foster 1 Yard Run (Shayne Graham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 88 yds, 3:37
|TD||14:26||Brandon Lloyd Fumble Recovery (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 72 yds, 4:13
|TD||7:28||Stevan Ridley 14 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 68 yds, 4:24
|TD||2:04||T.J. Yates 1 Yard Run (Shayne Graham Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 25 yds, 1:01
From Elias: Of the 46 teams that have won the Super Bowl, not a single one lost a game by at least 28 points in December or later. In fact, only 4 Super Bowl winners lost a game by 28 points all season (2003 NE, 1994 SF, 1979 PIT, 1976 OAK).
NEXT LEVEL: J.J. Watt did not have at least one batted pass, sack or tackle for loss for the first time this season.
The Patriots defense forced nine negative plays (two sacks, seven tackles for loss) Monday, their most in a game since Week 8 of 2011. Entering Monday, the Texans offense had committed only 5.4 negative plays per game.
Aaron Hernandez caught both of his touchdowns on throws traveling 10 yards or fewer downfield and had 20 of his 21 yards after the catch on such throws. In his three-year career, 14 of Hernandez's 17 touchdowns have been on throws 10 yards or fewer downfield.[+]
Aaron Hernandez Receiving by Target Depth, Monday
Tom Brady was 2-3 for 100 yards and two touchdowns on passes traveling more than 30 yards downfield. It was the first time in the QBR era (since 2008) that he had two touchdowns in a game on such throws. Entering the game, Brady had completed 25.0 percent of his passes longer than 30 yards, tied for 20th-best among qualified quarterbacks.
The Texans sent five or more pass rushers on 54.1 percent of Tom Brady's dropbacks (20 of 37) Monday. Entering the game, the Texans had sent added pressure on 43.9 percent of dropbacks and allowed a Total QBR of 22.1, each of which were first in the league.[+]
Texans Defense Sending 5+ Rushers, This Season
Tom Brady threw for 121 yards and three touchdowns against five or more pass rushers in the first half en route to a 21-0 lead. Brady has now thrown a league-leading 18 touchdowns without an interception against added pressure this season. Matt Schaub was not as effective against five or more rushers Monday, as he threw an interception and fumbled on a sack. -The Patriots' win probability at the half was 98.0 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information's win probability model.[+]
Teams at Least 10 Games Over .500 - Losing Game by at Least 28 Points Since 2000
(these notes assume a win Monday night vs Texans) With the win, the Patriots have now tied the 1968-72 Cowboys for the 2nd-longest December win streak in NFL history. Since 2010, the Patriots are 21-0 in games played in the 2nd half of the regular season. Since 2007, the Patriots are 20-1 in the final 4 games of the regular season (only loss was 2009 Week 17 to Texans).[+]
Most Consecutive December Wins - NFL History
The Patriots lead the Texans 21-0 at halftime... The Patriots are 43-0 all-time with a lead of at least 21 points at halftime. The Texans are 0-9 all-time when facing a deficit of at least 21 at the half.
ESPN Stats & Information