Football

Patriots thump Texans behind Lewis’ touchdown trifecta

New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) celebrates his second touchdown with teammates David Andrews, left, and Danny Amendola, right, during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) celebrates his second touchdown with teammates David Andrews, left, and Danny Amendola, right, during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. AP

The New England Patriots are headed back to a familiar spot: the AFC championship game.

Dion Lewis had a 13-yard touchdown reception , a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, and a late 1-yard touchdown run to help the Patriots hold off the Houston Texans 34-16 on Saturday night and advance to an NFL-record sixth straight conference title game.

Lewis became the fifth Patriots player to score three touchdowns in a playoff game. He’s also the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a rush, a catch and a kick return in a postseason game.

The Patriots (15-2) survived a gritty effort by the Texans’ top-ranked defense, which intercepted Brady twice. Houston’s special teams also forced a third turnover.

But the Texans (10-8) couldn’t find enough traction on offense to take full advantage of the Patriots’ mistakes, settling for field goals on both of Brady’s picks.

New England led just 17-13 at the half, but pushed its lead to 24-13 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White.

Houston’s Brock Osweiler was intercepted three times after that, and the Texans managed only a field goal the rest of game.

It was the first breakout game of the season for Lewis, who spent the first eight games of the season on injured reserve recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee.

Brady finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards and two touchdowns and was showered with chants of “MVP! MVP!” and “Brady! Brady!” late in the game. Julian Edelman was Brady’s most dependable target, catching eight passes for 137 yards.

Osweiler was just 23 of 40 for 198 yards with the two turnovers.

When New England did have the ball in the first half, it gave Houston a steady diet of Lewis early with LeGarrette Blount coming off an illness that limited him during practice this week.

Without Blount to contend with, the Texans applied pressure to Brady.

A.J. Bouye intercepted a slightly overthrown ball by Brady late in the first quarter on a pass that bounced out of the hands of receiver Michael Floyd. That led to a 27-yard field goal that cut New England’s lead to 14-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lewis coughed up the ball on a hit from Akeem Dent. Eddie Pleasant fell on it at the Patriots 12, and two plays later, Brock Osweiler hit C.J. Fiedorowicz from 8 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13.

Brady only threw two interceptions during the regular season. With his 28 touchdown passes, that was the lowest touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history.

CLOWN TIME IS OVER

Jadeveon Clowney was in Brady’s face all game, flattening him in the first half with a legal hit and bringing him down a couple of times in the second on plays that were a little more questionable.

In the third quarter, Brady was chased out of the pocket before heaving the ball downfield. Clowney dragged him to the turf, and Brady came up kicking. The Patriots quarterback made his case to the referee, but no penalty was called.

Early in the fourth, though Clowney was called for roughing the passer for Brady after he got rid of the ball and while he was in the clutches of defensive end Christian Covington.

PILING UP POINTS

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski continues to climb the NFL’s career postseason scoring list.

He made an extra point in the first quarter to pass Rice and move into third place on the league’s career list. It was Gostkowski’s 133rd postseason point, breaking a tie with the San Francisco 49ers receiver.

Next up are kickers Gary Anderson, David Akers and all-time leader Adam Vinatieri, who had half of his 234 career postseason points with New England before moving on to the Indianapolis Colts.

INJURIES

Texans: RB Tyler Ervin left in the second quarter with a concussion. Defensive end Joel Heath exited in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

Patriots: WR Chris Hogan left in the third quarter with a thigh injury.

UP NEXT

Texans: End of season.

Patriots: Will host either Pittsburgh or Kansas City in next week’s AFC title game.

Patriots 34, Texans 16

Houston

3

10

0

3

16

New England

14

3

7

10

34

First Quarter

NE—Lewis 13 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 9:27.

Hou—FG Novak 33, 1:15.

NE—Lewis 98 kickoff return (Gostkowski kick), 1:00.

Second Quarter

Hou—FG Novak 27, 11:36.

Hou—Fiedorowicz 10 pass from Osweiler (Novak kick), 10:49.

NE—FG Gostkowski 19, :07.

Third Quarter

NE—White 19 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick), 9:09.

Fourth Quarter

Hou—FG Novak 46, 14:51.

NE—Lewis 1 run (Gostkowski kick), 12:16.

NE—FG Gostkowski 43, 6:37.

A—66,829.

Hou

NE

First downs

14

20

Total Net Yards

285

377

Rushes-yards

23-104

27-98

Passing

181

279

Punt Returns

2-34

4-26

Kickoff Returns

3-52

3-124

Interceptions Ret.

2-13

3-58

Comp-Att-Int

23-40-3

18-38-2

Sacked-Yards Lost

3-17

2-8

Punts

8-42.6

6-40.0

Fumbles-Lost

0-0

2-1

Penalties-Yards

5-75

5-50

Time of Possession

32:30

27:30

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Houston, Miller 19-73, Osweiler 1-18, Grimes 2-11, Blue 1-2. New England, Lewis 13-41, Blount 8-31, Amendola 1-15, Edelman 1-12, Brady 4-(minus 1).

PASSING—Houston, Osweiler 23-40-3-198. New England, Brady 18-38-2-287.

RECEIVING—Houston, Hopkins 6-65, Grimes 4-43, Miller 4-16, Fiedorowicz 3-36, Fuller 3-16, Hunt 2-15, Mumphery 1-7. New England, Edelman 8-137, Hogan 4-95, Lewis 2-23, White 1-19, Floyd 1-9, Bennett 1-4, Develin 1-0.

MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.

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