Despite a sloppy performance from the New England Patriots, they were able to defeat the Houston Texans 34-16 and clinch a spot in their 6th consecutive AFC Championship.
The Patriots started the way they planned as they took a 14-3 lead late in the opening quarter thanks to a 98-yard kickoff return from Dion Lewis. Just when everyone thought the Texans were finished, New England started their sloppy play with a Tom Brady interception. Brady threw a pass to receiver Michael Floyd and the ball tipped off his hand and right into the hands of Texans cornerback, A.J. Bouye.
Brady finished with a disappointing performance, going just 18-of-38 passing for 287 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Houston turned Bouye’s interception into a field goal and they got the ball back with tremendous field position after Dion Lewis fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Lewis’ fumble led to a Brock Osweiler touchdown pass to tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz that brought the game to 14-13.
Tom Brady was able to march his offense down the field on their next drive, but Houston’s defense was able to keep them out of them end zone, forcing them to kick a field goal and make the score 17-13 at the half. Despite Houston going 1-of-9 on third down conversions and only averaging 3 yards per play, New England’s two turnovers kept the game interesting heading into the second half.
New England started the next half on the right note, capping off a 90-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to James White. Brock Osweiler threw an interception on the Texans ensuing drive and that shifted all the momentum towards the Patriots. Osweiler finished the game 23-40 passing for 198 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions.
After Brady threw his second interception of the game, Houston tacked on another field goal, but their failure to get into the end zone proved costly. Osweiler threw another interception after DeAndre Hopkins tipped the ball right to Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, and New England’s offense took advantage as Dion Lewis ran for a touchdown to give New England a comfortable 31-16 lead.
New England added one more field goal and ended the game with a 34-16 score, but they will have a lot of work to do if they want to compete in the AFC championship. They must clean up their turnovers and time of possession but Bill Belichick will be all over his players and I’m sure they’ll come ready to play next weekend.
On a positive note, Patriots’ running back Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL history to record a receiving touchdown, rushing touchdown and a kickoff touchdown in a postseason game. New England will play Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday for the AFC title.