4:06 p.m.: If the Bengals defeat the Jets on Sunday night, they’ll take the third seed and the Patriots will have the fourth seed. If the Bengals lose, though, the Patriots will clinch the strength-of-victory tiebreaker and will clinch the third seed in the AFC.
Texans 34, Patriots 27. Final: The Patriots fell to 10-6, and the Texans improved to 9-7 to record their first winning season in franchise history. They’re also still alive in the playoff race.
Fourth quarter, 0:14: Brian Hoyer’s comeback bid stalled as he threw an incompletion to Julian Edelman. The Texans will close this one out with a kneel-down.
Fourth quarter, 1:47: The Patriots take over at their own 34-yard line, and Brian Hoyer is under center. Randy Moss is also out of the game. This has got to be a fun moment for the rookie Hoyer.
Texans 34, Patriots 27. Fourth quarter, 1:54: Arian Foster scored his second touchdown in the last three minutes, and the Texans have scored 21 consecutive points. The Patriots will get the ball back with three timeouts.
In my opinion, the Patriots’ performance mattered more Sunday than the score of the game, but I’m throwing that opinion out the window now. Losing another double-digit lead in the fourth quarter is basically the last way the Patriots wanted to lose this thing.
Fourth quarter, 3:49: This has gotten ugly. Tom Brady was intercepted by Bernard Pollard, who is having some kind of game, and the Texans have the ball at the New England 28-yard line. The Patriots have to keep the Texans out of the end zone and hope this thing comes down to Kris Brown, who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.
Fourth quarter, 4:37: The Patriots are set up at their own 23-yard line, and Tom Brady is under center. Let’s see if he can register his first game-winning drive since the season opener.
Patriots 27, Texans 27. Fourth quarter, 4:43: Arian Foster scored a one-yard touchdown to tie the game in Houston. This is the fourth time this season the Patriots have blown a double-digit lead in the second half.
Fourth quarter, 7:30: The Texans have amped it up a bit in the fourth quarter. They held the Patriots to a three-and-out, and Jacoby Jones had a 31-yard punt return to set up the Texans at the New England 34. The Patriots have done a poor job of closing out road games this season, so this is a fairly significant moment for them. This isn’t so much for the playoff seedings, but they need some confidence, something to build off of heading into the postseason.
Patriots 27, Texans 20. Fourth quarter, 9:41: Matt Schaub threw a perfect ball to the back of the end zone to Jacoby Jones, who made a spectacular play to make the catch and tap both feet down for an eight-yard touchdown. After the score, the Reliant Stadium crowd sarcastically serenaded Kris Brown for converting an extra point.
Fourth quarter, 13:00: For those watching the CBS broadcast, a Patriots victory does not guarantee the third seed in the AFC playoffs, which the broadcasters just claimed. There are other games and other scenarios that are still in play for the strength-of-victory tiebreaker. There are six games going on right now that affect the strength-of-victory for the Patriots and Bengals, and I’ll paint a clearer picture at the conclusion of those contests.
Patriots 27, Texans 13. Fourth quarter, 14:04: Fred Taylor ran off another strong block from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and the veteran running back scored his second touchdown of the afternoon. Taylor cut to the left for an 11-yard run that doubled New England’s lead.
End of third quarter. You can sense the frustration from Texans fans at this one. They probably expected the Patriots to rest their big guns, and that might translate to a Houston victory, which the Texans need to stay alive in the playoff race. Instead, the Patriots are going hard, and they’re driving deep into Houston territory.
Third quarter, 2:57: Kris Brown can’t catch a break. The kicker has already cost the Texans a couple of games earlier this season, and he just missed his third kick of this game — two field goals and one extra point. Brown sailed a 38-yard attempt wide to the right, and the Patriots still have a 20-13 lead in Houston.
Third quarter, 4:45: The Texans have a Chris Brown and a Kris Brown. Do you think they play much Rihanna at Reliant Stadium? Thank you, please tip your bartenders.
Patriots 20, Texans 13. Third quarter, 7:43: This is why I’ve been singing Darius Butler’s song all season. The kid has electric open-field speed, and he’s a great athlete who would do a good job as a kick returner if given ample opportunities. Butler returned an interception 91 yards for a touchdown, taking advantage of a tipped pass and an open lane to put the Patriots back ahead. Butler didn’t make any amazing moves on the return, but he shot through the first wave of Texans and no one had a chance to catch him.
Third quarter, 12:51: The Patriots didn’t do a whole heck of a lot on that series, but Tom Brady got fired up at the end after defensive end Connor Barwin pushed him at the tail of the Pats’ final offensive play. Brady wound up on his backside and immediately got up to get up in Barwin’s face.
Third quarter, 14:54: This is certainly a surprise. Tom Brady has returned to the game for the start of the second half, which is an interesting decision on Bill Belichick’s part, to say the least.
Halftime. Kris Brown couldn’t make amends for his missed extra point, as he pushed a 56-yard field-goal attempt slightly wide to the right as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the second quarter.
Patriots 13, Texans 13. Second quarter, 0:46: Stephen Gostkowski did it again. The kicker booted a 53-yard field goal to tie the game and cap off a nicely orchestrated drive from Brian Hoyer, who has been pretty impressive during his limited playing chances in his rookie season.
Second quarter, 1:10: The Patriots announced Dan Connolly left the game with an ankle injury, and his return is questionable. Connolly is one of the Patriots’ most versatile offensive linemen, and he’s done a commendable job as a backup to Stephen Neal.
Second quarter, 2:47: That roughing-the-passer penalty got called about 16 months too late. Texans safety Bernard Pollard drew the flag for a high hit on Brian Hoyer. It was Pollard, as we all know, who ended Tom Brady’s season in 2008.
Texans 13, Patriots 10. Second quarter, 4:41: Wow, so much to write about. To start off, the Texans took the lead after Fred Taylor’s fumble in the end zone was recovered by safety Bernard Pollard for a touchdown. And then Kris Brown missed the extra point, which in my mind, is always one of the funniest moments in sports.
Prior to the touchdown, the Patriots’ defense held strong in a goal-to-go situation, and the Texans turned it over on downs on the New England 2-yard line. Cornerback Shawn Springs did a great job on wide receiver Andre Johnson. Springs jammed Johnson at the line, and Matt Schaub’s fade pass floated harmlessly through the end zone. That was a veteran move by Springs, who knew he couldn’t match Johnson on a jump ball and just never let the giant wide receiver get past the line of scrimmage.
And finally, Tom Brady’s day appears to be over. Brian Hoyer entered the game on the last series, which resulted in Pollard’s touchdown. Brady did a solid job, and the Patriots’ drive starting deep in their own end likely played a role in the decision to take him out. By the way, if something happens to Hoyer, you’ll likely see Isaiah Stanback at quarterback.
Patriots 10, Texans 7. Second quarter, 9:51: Stephen Gostkowski smoked a 51-yard field goal through the uprights to give the Patriots their first lead of the day. Gostkowski is having a Pro Bowl type of season, but he got left out due to the tremendous season Nate Kaeding is enjoying in San Diego.
Second quarter, 14:38: Tom Brady and the starters are back on the field for their next possession. For the record, I think this is a good move on the part of Bill Belichick, who is playing his main guys Sunday to build momentum for the postseason. By taking everyone out after the Wes Welker injury, Belichick would have allowed his players to let the shock settle in, and there’s a chance that momentum comes crashing down. This isn’t a time for the Patriots to feel sorry for themselves. If anything, it’s giving them live reps to adjust to an offense without Welker.
End of first quarter. Houston is trying to take advantage of a long kickoff return by Andre Davis, and the Texans have a second-and-10 at the Patriots’ 44-yard line when the second quarter begins.
Patriots 7, Texans 7. First quarter, 0:50: Fred Taylor scored a four-yard touchdown to cap off an efficient drive by the Patriots’ offense, which moved on nicely without its most valuable target. Give credit to BenJarvus Freen-Ellis for making a nice block to spring Taylor for the touchdown.
First quarter, 3:20: You’re getting a look at the Patriots’ passing game without Wes Welker. Brady’s first four passes of this drive went to Julian Edelman, Ben Watson (twice) and Chris Baker. Watson is the guy who really has to step up without Welker on the field. Obviously, Edelman will be the guy filling in directly for Welker, but Watson has the veteran presence in this offense.
First quarter, 7:17: Wes Welker got carted into the locker room. Judging by Welker’s emotions, the sour faces of his teammates and how badly his knee bent inward, I just can’t envision him playing again. This is simply horrendous news for the Patriots’ offense.
First quarter, 9:39: Wes Welker went down with an ugly left knee injury. He stayed down on the field for a couple of minutes before getting helped to the sideline by the training staff. Welker, who has tears in his eyes on the bench, got his leg tangled up awkwardly in the turf, and his knee bent inward. This doesn’t look good at all.
First quarter, 10:15: That blown coverage might also be on linebacker Gary Guyton, who also went to the wrong side of the field. By the way, Sebastian Vollmer is starting at right tackle in place of Nick Kaczur.
Texans 7, Patriots 0. First quarter, 11:19: Well, that was easy. The Texans spread it around, using downfield throws and quick screens to make quick work of that touchdown drive. Matt Schaub hit a wide-open Joel Dreessen for a 25-yard touchdown. The tight end broke free over the middle of the field, and the blown coverage was either the fault of linebacker Jerod Mayo or safety James Sanders. Sanders broke to the other side of the field, while Mayo was playing a zone coverage and let Dreessen get behind him.
First quarter, 14:54: Great kickoff coverage for the Patriots, who bottled up Andre Davis at the Houston 24-yard line.
12:57 p.m.: Kickoff is only minutes away, so make sure you keep it here for Patriots-Texans analysis along with a look at the playoff scenarios as they continue to unfold.
11:59 a.m.: There are some eerie parallels in this game for the Patriots. Kevin Faulk is missing his first game since the 2008 season opener, when Tom Brady injured his left knee against the Chiefs. And Texans safety Bernard Pollard was the man who delivered the low hit on Brady.
11:48 a.m.: Leigh Bodden (knee), Laurence Maroney (knee) and Kevin Faulk (not on injury report) are each missing their first game of the season Sunday in Houston. Ty Warren (ankle) is missing his third game of the season, and Vince Wilfork (foot) is missing his third consecutive game. Rich Ohrnberger (not on injury report) is out for the second consecutive week and 13th week overall. Terrence Wheatley (not on injury report) is out for the fifth week in a row and 11th time this season. Ryan Wendell, who was promoted to the active roster a few days ago, is also inactive. He was not on the injury report, either.
Right tackle Nick Kaczur (shoulder) is back after missing two games. Cornerback Darius Butler (not on injury report) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (not on injury report) also return after missing last week’s game against the Jaguars.
This is also the first time since the Patriots’ Week 5 game against the Broncos that each of their top-six offensive linemen are active. How long ago was that? Well, Joey Galloway was still on the team.
11:32 a.m.: The Patriots have announced their inactive list for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Cornerback Leigh Bodden, running back Kevin Faulk, running back Laurence Maroney, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, defensive lineman Ty Warren, offensive lineman Ryan Wendell, cornerback Terrence Wheatley and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork will all miss the game. I’ll provide more detail on the inactive list in a few minutes.
11:00 a.m.: It’s shaping up to be a stress-free afternoon for the Patriots, who have clinched a playoff spot and shouldn’t be all that worried about the outcome of Sunday’s game in Houston against the Texans.
Tom Brady and the starters will have a short workday, as we should expect it to be Brian Hoyer‘s show in the second half. While the Patriots don’t have much to play for, the Texans are still fighting for their first playoff berth in franchise history. Stay with NESN.com throughout the day, as we’ll provide analysis on the game and the developing postseason picture.