Dion Lewis' 3-TD outing leads New England Patriots past Houston Texans

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) charges into the end zone after dodging a tackle by Houston Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 14, 2017. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33) charges into the end zone after dodging a tackle by Houston Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on January 14, 2017. Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It wasn't an artistic success, but it was enough for the New England Patriots to return to the AFC title game for a record sixth straight time.

"You gotta give these guys a lot of credit -- we didn't play particularly well but we hung in there and we ended up making enough plays to win," coach Bill Belichick said after his team moved on with a 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans in the divisional playoff game on Saturday night.


Dion Lewis scored touchdowns three different ways and the Patriots, who have won eight straight games, will play the winner of Sunday night's Kansas City-Pittsburgh game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22.

They made more mistakes than usual Saturday night but got away with them and snapped the Raiders' 1970s record of five straight title games.


"It doesn't feel great because we worked pretty hard to play a lot better than we did," Tom Brady said after he threw two interceptions to go with his two touchdowns. "We'll learn from it and try to be better next week."

But they won.

Asked how it feels to have broken the record for consecutive title-game appearances, Brady paused and said, "Ummm, pretty cool; pretty cool. Let's go win the AFC championship game -- that would be VERY cool. That's what we gotta do."

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The Patriots, looking for their fifth Super Bowl title, turned the ball over three times, put the ball on the ground and were guilty of a costly defensive penalty that led to a field goal, but will make their 13th appearance in the conference title game.

Lewis recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown in New England playoff history with a 98-yarder, caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Brady and ran 1 yard for a score in the fourth quarter. He was also guilty of fumbling away a kickoff, leading to a Houston touchdown, and he fumbled on a running play in the fourth quarter.


Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score on a run, a pass and a kickoff return in a postseason game. He also joined Kansas City's Tyreek Hill, who did it earlier this season, as the only players since Gale Sayers in 1965 to pull off the feat.

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No other player ever had two offensive touchdowns and a return touchdown in a playoff game, according to STATS, LLC.

"I did OK," said Lewis. "Some things I can do a lot better on, like protect the ball a little bit better. I put my team in jeopardy, so I've got to work on that this week."

Brady, who also threw a touchdown pass to James White, finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards with two interceptions against the Texans' top-ranked defense.

Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 137 yards, breaking Wes Welker's club record for career postseason catches. Edelman now has 76.

Rutgers alums Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon all had interceptions of Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, who finished 23 of 40 for 198 yards and a touchdown pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz.


"I feel like we battled as a team," said Osweiler. "Every guy on that field was giving it everything they had."

Nick Novak kicked three field goals for Houston, while Stephen Gostkowski had two for New England. Gostkowski converted his 16th and 17th consecutive postseason field-goal attempts since his only second miss, in 2009.

The Patriots are 15-0 with Lewis on the field. He missed half of two seasons with a knee injury.

The win increased New England's record when leading at halftime at home since 2001 to an amazing 100-1.

The Texans, 1-8 against the Patriots, 0-5 at Gillette Stadium, are one of two teams that have never reached the AFC conference title game. (The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their first year, 1976, in the AFC).

"I think it's easy to point out the negatives," said Osweiler, who threw 17 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions in the first year of his four-year, $72 million contract with Houston. "But there has been a lot of great things that we can build up in the future."

Amid speculation he might be leaving the Texans, coach Bill O'Brien said he will be back next season.


"I really enjoy coaching this team. ... I'm looking forward to coming back and coaching those guys," he said.

NOTES: Patriots rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell missed his second straight game with a knee injury, but New England got WR Danny Amendola back after a four-game absence caused by a sprained ankle. The Patriots hope Mitchell will be able to return for the AFC title game. ... The Houston inactives included S Quintin Demps, the club leader with six interceptions, out with a hamstring injury, and LB John Simon (chest). ... Former Patriots NT Vince Wilfork received an ovation when shown on the big screen with his Texans coming out onto the field pregame. Wilfork is considering retirement. "I think I have played my last football game," Wilfork said after the contest. "I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back and see if I really want to retire." ... MGM had the point spread on the game up to 17 points, which made it the third-biggest spread in postseason history since the start of Super Bowls. The San Francisco 49ers were favored by 19 over the San Diego Chargers in the 1995 Super Bowl, and the Baltimore Colts were favored by 18 over the upstart New York Jets in 1969.


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