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Brady gets record as Patriots roll into AFC title game
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates after the Patriots scored a touchdown in the third quarter of Sunday's game. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
However, they apparently will have to continue their run without Rob Gronkowski.
The star tight end, who returned from a broken left arm for the regular season finale, re-injured the arm in the first quarter. Multiple reports surfaced late in the game he would need more surgery and is done for the postseason.
New England running back Danny Woodhead (wrist) and rookie defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) also left with injuries.
Thanks to the Denver Broncos losing to the Baltimore on Saturday night, New England will host the Ravens next Sunday night in the conference championship game. The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since the game that ended the 2004-05 season, their third title in four years. New England lost last year's Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
The Ravens nipped the Patriots 31-30 in Baltimore on Sept. 23.
New England's Tom Brady earned his 17th postseason win Sunday, making him the all-time leader among quarterbacks. Bill Belichick picked up his 18th postseason victory, moving him past Joe Gibbs into third place on the all-time coaches' wins list. Tom Landry had 20, and Don Shula finished with 19.
Brady completed 25 of 40 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns, one to Brandon Lloyd, the first postseason TD catch of the receiver's career. Brady became the third quarterback with 40 postseason touchdown passes.
Patriots running back Shane Vereen caught two touchdown passes and ran for another score. Stevan Ridley (82 yards on 15 carries) ran for a touchdown. Wes Welker, called "not that big or a real athletic guy," by Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, caught eight passes for a 131 yards.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked two field goals in the win.
The Texans, who were 11-1 after 12 games, lost four of their last six games (including the postseason) for a disappointing end to the best season in their young history.
The Patriots, ahead 17-13 at halftime, blew the game open after the break. New England led 38-13 when Matt Schaub hit DeVier Posey with a 25-yard touchdown pass that was first called incomplete but was overturned on a challenge. Schaub then hit Arian Foster with a 1-yard touchdown pass and then threw a two-point conversion pass to Andre Johnson.
Schaub finished 34-for-51 for 343 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Houston's Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 94 yards (he also had returns of 69 and 35 yards), but the Texans had to settle for a field goal and what turned out to be their only lead of the game.
Vereen's 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter capped a six-play, 65-yard drive and put New England on top for good.
On their next possession, the Patriots got to the Houston 16-yard line but had to settle for a second-quarter field goal after Lloyd was flagged for throwing the ball at the official after an incompletion. The questionable call put New England back to the 31, but Gostkowski's 37-yard kick extended the lead to 10-3.
After Brady threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Vereen, Shayne Graham kicked a 55-yard field goal to end the first half, bringing the Texas to within 17-13.
NOTES: Posey was injured with 6:07 left in the game and left on a cart. ... New England defensive end Ron Ninkovich, who left the final regular-season game with a hip injury, returned to action and had an interception in the third quarter. ... Texans tight end Owen Daniels caught nine passes for 81 yards, while Johnson had eight receptions for 95 yards. ... Game-time temperature was a balmy 51 degrees, with 87 percent humidity, hardly New England weather in the middle of January. ... The Patriots had a moment of silence before the game for long-time equipment manager Donny Brocher, who died recently. ... Houston star J.J. Watt had a sack. There were only two games this season in which he didn't have a sack or a pass defended. ... Schaub made his first career road playoff start. ... Welker has made at least six receptions in all seven postseason games with the Patriots. ... Brady, recording his fifth 300-yard postseason game, came in needing 571 yards passing to pass Brett Favre for the all-time NFL postseason record. His first completion was the 500th of his postseason career. He broke a tie with Joe Montana for the lead in quarterback wins. ... Houston finished 8-0 this season when Foster ran for more than 100 yards, including the 140 he gained against Cincinnati in the wild-card round. Foster ran for 90 yards on 22 carries Sunday. He has 515 rushing yards in four postseason games, tying him with Terrell Davis for the most yards in a player's first four playoff games. ... Vereen is the third Patriot to score three touchdowns in a postseason game.