Texans-Patriots Live: Shane Vereen, Tom Brady Lead Charge As Patriots Trounce Texans 41-28

Tom Brady, Stevan RidleyFinal, Patriots 41-28: Even after all the hype that the Patriots couldn’t beat the Texans big again after their Week 14 victory, New England trounced Houston 41-28.

Tom Brady was impressive in the win, throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns.

The victory also came at a cost — Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski and Chandler Jones all left the game with injuries, and it’s been reported by multiple sources that Gronkowski is lost for the remainder of the playoffs.

The Patriots will face the Ravens in Foxboro on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 6:30 p.m.

Fourth quarter, 2:00, Patriots 38-28: Stevan Ridley is doing a nice job putting this game away for New England. The Patriots are at the 19-yard line, and they’ve taken more than three minutes off the clock now.

It would be tough for the Texans to come back from 10 down with two minutes left, but a score would really put this game away.

Fourth quarter, 5:11, Patriots 38-28: The Texans scored again and converted the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 38-28. At this point, the Texans are just making the final score look a little better in their favor. The Patriots will try to eat the clock again here to end the fourth quarter.

The statistics may not look great by the end of the game, but the Patriots have been impressive on defense today.

Fourth quarter, 10:42, Patriots 38-20: Pro Football Talk sent out a tweet saying Rob Gronkowski needs another surgery and is out for the remainder of the postseason. That’s obviously a huge hit for New England, but they were getting it done down the stretch without the star tight end.

Fourth quarter, 11:35, Patriots 38-20: If there’s one area for Patriots fans and Bill Belichick to complain about after this game, it’s kickoff coverage. New England has been giving up yards in giants chunks to Danieal Manning on kick returns. He now has four returns for 216 yards. He doesn’t have any touchdowns, so that’s a plus for the Patriots.

Devier Posey caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Schaub. It was a great diving play by the rookie out of Ohio State. It was originally ruled incomplete, but the Texans challenged, and it was overturned into a touchdown.

The Texans are now down by just three scores, so the Patriots will likely try to eat some clock with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. With the way Vereen has been playing, though, that clock may turn into points pretty quickly.

Fourth quarter, 13:07, Patriots 38-13: You may be able to classify this game as “out of hand.” The Patriots have gone up by four scores now and are firing on all cylinders.

The Patriots will rarely chuck it out to a running back split out wide at wide receiver, but Shane Vereen has been a big contributor in the passing game tonight, and that included a 33-yard touchdown pass. Woodhead was lost early in this game with a thumb injury, and Vereen has more than stepped up in his place. Chucking a ball 33 yards deep to Woodhead would be doubtful.

End Third Quarter, Patriots 31-13: The Patriots came out with one heck of a response here in the second half, and two touchdowns in the third quarter have extended a dominating three-score lead heading into the fourth.

Stevan Ridley’s strong running through the tackles has been huge, and the play of the defense, especially against the run, has been big in keeping the Texans off the scoreboard.

Houston will need quite the effort from Schaub, Foster and company in this final frame if they have any hope of regaining momentum and/or this lead.

Third Quarter, 1:21 , Patriots 31-13: He’s alive.

After barely seeing the field in the first half, Stevan Ridley has now run for 68 yards on 10 carries and seems to be carrying the Patriots’ offense in the second half.

Ridley has been very careful with the ball and must be gaining all sorts of confidence with the ball in his hands.

As for Brandon Lloyd, in his first career postseason game he also recorded his first career postseason touchdown. Great sign for this offense if he can get going again.

Third Quarter, 4:33 , Patriots 24-13: Matt Schaub has struggled under duress all game long, and he just forced one throws too many on that drive.

After leading the Texans down the field in what looked like a would-be deficit-cutting drive, Schaub made yet another errant throw and let Rob Ninkovich catch maybe the easiest interception of his career.

Brady and the boys now have the ball and the momentum to take a commanding three-score lead on this drive.

Third Quarter, 8:22 , Patriots 24-13: In case you absolutely loved that Brandon Spikes shuffle on the non-fumble call, well, your prayers have been answered.

Take a peek at the epic dance right here. Watch it over, and over, and over again. As many times as you’d like, in fact.

Respect to Bleacher Report on this.

Third Quarter, 9:50 , Patriots 24-13: Forward progress? Wow, that’s embarrassing for these refs.

The Patriots appeared to pry the ball out of James Casey’s hands to get the ball back inside the Houston 25-yard line, but the referees made a terrible call that the fullback’s forward progress had been stopped.

The Texans were still forced to punt the ball back to Brady, which could be a killer if he leads the offense on another touchdown drive.

Third Quarter, 11:30 , Patriots 24-13: Gronk is still nowhere to be found to start the second half, as it looks like he’s being kept back in the locker room for further examination, but Aaron Hernandez is making his presence felt.

Hernandez caught one pass out in the flat and swerved his way down the field to get the Patriots into the red zone. For a guy who was hampered with an ankle injury for much of the season, Hernandez finally looks to be healthy and able to contribute for New England.

Ridley, who was nothing more than a ghost in the first half, is the one who punched in the touchdown to put the Patriots back up by two scores.

Halftime, Patriots 17-13: The Patriots chose a very conservative game plan with a minute left and two timeouts. They seemed content to just give Houston the ball, and the Texans made them play, drilling a 54-yard field goal to close out the half.

The Patriots now lead by just four, but they will get the ball back in the second half. Typically, the Patriots will defer to grab an extra possession at the half. They lost the coin toss, but they still got the ball in the second half. That seemed like a wasted opportunity by New England to grab an extra score before getting the ball back again.

Second quarter, 1:15, Patriots 17-10: The ruling on the field was upheld. From the replays here, it looked short, but it could have been inconclusive.

The Patriots could get a free touchdown here before the half. The goal of deferring at the coin toss is to get these extra possessions.

Second quarter, 1:15, Patriots 17-9: The call on the field is an Arian Foster touchdown, but it’s currently under review. The replay looks questionable. Foster could be down here.

Second quarter, 2:00, Patriots 17-3: The Patriots’ kickoff coverage lacked again on another big return from Danieal Manning. Stephen Gostkowski brought him down but was flagged with a horse-collar tackle.

As soon as we brought up how the Patriots’ run defense was stopping Arian Foster, he started lighting up the stat sheet. He ran the ball three times for 42 yards. With the ball on the six-yard line, a touchdown here for the Texans could put them right back in the game.

Second quarter, 3:38, Patriots 17-3: Apparently Wes Welker didn’t like being told he was unathletic by Wade Phillips. He has six receptions, and his 120 yards are a postseason record for him. It’s only his second playoff game over 100 yards.

Shane Vereen continues to make the most of his opportunities on the field. He took an eight-yard pass in for touchdown. The Patriots are looking like that Week 14 game never ended right now. Did the Texans wear their letterman jackets again?

Second quarter, 6:34, Patriots 10-3: The Patriots were able to generate some pressure up the middle on that third-down play with Dont’a Hightower. Matt Schaub can certainly struggle at times when he’s facing a prevalent pass rush.

The Patriots’ secondary is playing strong as well right now. No complaints about the run defense, either. Arian Foster has just six carries for 10 yards.

Second Quarter, 10:16, Patriots 10-3: Well, that was a pretty bizarre penalty on Brandon Lloyd. Apparently throwing the ball in a straight line to an official is a penalty, but throwing it with a slight arc is not. There is a major difference between throwing to and throwing at in a football game. Who knew?

Tom Brady is keying in on Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. They have 11 of the 17 targets on the game. Since Danny Woodhead has been out, Shane Vereen has been a major part of the game plan as well. He has two receptions for 37 yards and five carries for 36.

Second Quarter,14:07,  Patriots 7-3: Doug Kyed taking over here in the second quarter.

The Patriots’ secondary came up big on that drive with impressive plays from Tavon Wilson and Aqib Talib. The Patriots’ defense completely changed when Talib came in. The combination of Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety and Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback has been a big improvement over the start of the season.

End First Quarter, Patriots 7-3: Danieal Manning gave the Texans an immediate jolt with his 94-yard return on the opening kickoff, but the Patriots have responded.

Tom Brady is 8 of 11 for 94 yards through the air, and Shane Vereen has provided a nice spark on the ground and in the passing game.

Stevan Ridley didn’t see a single snap on either of the Patriots’ first two drives, but he was in there to start the third drive. Ridley has been the stable running threat for the Patriots for much of the season, and his absence at the start has to be more about the game plan than concerns over his fumbles.

As for Gronk and Woodhead, both are questionable for returns, which could be a big problem for the Patriots going forward in this one.

First Quarter, 1:29, Patriots 7-3: Danny Woodhead took to the sidelines after the Patriots’ first drive, but Shane Vereen has picked up just where he left off.

Vereen caught and ran for 25-yard gain to get the Patriots in scoring position, and then he punched in the one-yard score to put New England on top 7-3.

The big concern now is the health of Gronk, who left the game after laying out for a ball on the second drive. It appears his forearm might be bothering him more than expected.

First Quarter, 5:49, Texans 3-0: Wes Welker has shown a little bit of the good and the bad already here against the Texans.

Welker picked up a  big first down on that drive, hauling in a ball at the sticks before getting lit up by a Texans defensive back. But then the reliable receiver also let a 3rd-and-8 pass slip right through his hands, forcing the Patriots to punt.

Welker’s role in this game has been important so far, as his three catches and 30 yards are almost all of Brady’s passing totals, but he’ll need to step up and make those big plays if the Patriots expect to take control of this game.

First Quarter, 9:23, Texans 3-0: So far, Andre Johnson (one catch, 11 yards) has gotten the best of Aqib Talib in that crucial matchup on the outside, but the battle isn’t anywhere near over.

As a matter of fact, Johnson and Talib have been jawing at each other since kickoff, and the two even got into a bit of a shoving match after an incompletion on that last drive.

That could be a matchup to keep an eye on all day, not only for it’s onfield impact but also for pure entertainment and the potential of a Cortland Finnegan-esque brawl to break out.

First Quarter, 12:04, Texans 3-0: Just an FYI: After his opening rush that went for no gain, Danny Woodhead went to the locker room with the Patriots’ training staff and appeared to be favoring his left arm.

His absence would be noticeable if he can’t return, and Shane Vereen’s role in the offense would immediately expand.

First Quarter, 13:57, Texans 3-0: Houston came out and grabbed the momentum early, and the Texans are hoping to keep it that way with Tom Brady set to take the field.

Manning’s 94-yard kick return really set the precedent to start this one, but Matt Schaub’s ineptitude on an easy touchdown toss forced Shayne Graham to put three points on the board rather than a 7-0 lead.

Now, it’s Brady’s time to shine and get the lead back for the Pats.

First Quarter, 14:49: No wonder the Texans wanted the ball. With that sort of kick return — 94 yards by Danieal Manning — I’d take the ball first every time.

Now, that’s some much-needed momentum right away for Houston.

4:25 p.m.: Now that the Falcons have done away with the Seahawks, it’s time to turn our undivided attention to the Patriots and Texans.

Tom Brady and J.J. Watt are both amped up to get this game under way. So, in that same breath, let’s jump into the weekly Three and Out to see what some of the biggest storylines of this game will be.

1. Aftershock – The Texans got blown out by 28 points during their last trip to Foxboro. We all know this, but how will they respond this time around? There’s lots of pressure on them to rebound from that awful showing and prove that they aren’t the “frauds” they were accused of being.

2. Gronk’s Back – Gronk wasn’t around for the last meeting between these two teams, but he and his massive white arm wrap are ready to go for the rematch. The middle of the field proved to be susceptible to the Texans last time, and we’ll see if Gronk further exploits that in this one.

3. Containing Foster – Arian Foster racked up 174 total yards last weekend against the Bengals, but last time he was at Gillette, he managed just 45 yards.  The Texans will need to get Foster rolling early to set up the play action and keep the Patriots’ defense honest.

4 p.m.: So, rumor has it that J.J. Watt was disrespecting the Patriots’ logo during pregame warm ups.

Watt, who wasn’t pleased by the disrespect the Texans have faced since their blowout in New England last month, apparently spit on the field, according to Mike Petraglia of WEEI.

There’s no idea what Watt’s intention was in the incident, but I’m sure the Patriots won’t take kindly to that sort of disrespect, especially in such a big game.

3:10 p.m.: The Patriots are as close to full health as they have been all season, and today’s inactives are even further proof of that.

For the first time in quite a while, a significant member of the Patriots won’t be watching from the sidelines.

Daniel Fells is the only consistent contributor that won’t be seeing any action against the Texans. Aside from him, the inactives are as expected.

Check out the Patriots and Texans inactive players below.

Texans:
CB Rashad Carmichael,
CB Stanford Routt,
LB Cameron Collins,
OL Antoine Caldwell,
OL Andrew Gardner,
OL Cody White,
DT Terrell McClain

Patriots:
WR Kamar Aiken,
DB Derrick Martin,
DB Malcolm Williams,
OL  Nick McDonald,
OL Marcus Zusevics,
TE Daniel Fells,
DE Jake Bequette

2:20 p.m.: With one Patriots foe already settled into the NFC title game next weekend in the 49ers, it looks like another won’t be joining them.

Granted, it’s still early,  but the Seahawks aren’t looking too good thus far, and a 20-0 deficit might be just too much to overcome. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have jumped all over Seattle in the early going, and 133 rushing yards might be the most the Seahawks have given up in one game, never mind a half, all year.

The Patriots are still focused on their own game here at Gillette, and there are already some players out on the field getting set up for game time.

1:50 p.m.: Andre Johnson came out onto the field around 1 p.m. and hasn’t stopped working for even a moment since.

Johnson has been running a variety of routes and catching balls from a number of assistant coaches as well as backup quarterback T.J. Yates.

The work he’s putting in must be to try and counter the blanketed coverage that Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty threw over him on the Texans’ last visit.

Johnson caught just four passes for 62 yards against the Bengals last weekend, and I’m sure he’s looking to significantly improve on that output this time around.

1:15 p.m.: Welcome to cloudy and cool Gillette Stadium for the final game of this weekend’s divisional playoff fun. Luke Hughes here alongside colleague Doug Kyed, and we’ll be bringing you all your Patriots news for the day.

Andre Johnson and some of the Texans got out on the field awful early to start their preparations for this game, which may be necessary given the 28-point blowout they endured on their last visit to Foxboro.

The Seahawks and Falcons are getting most of the attention around the NFL right now, but there are plenty of fans around Gillette, and they are plenty excited. The Patriots diehards are out in the parking lot, firing up their grills and cracking a few beverages.

There’s still a little over three hours until game time, but here’s a look at the field at Gillette in preparation of today’s game.

Gillette

10:30 a.m.: It’s expected to be a heated affair in Foxboro, especially with a chance to host the AFC Championship Game on the line.

The Texans won’t be wearing their lettermans this time around — in fact, they’re going in the opposite direction for this matchup and instead professing to be underdogs.

9 a.m. ET: The Ravens stole the show in Denver on Saturday. Now the Patriots hold all the cards looking ahead to the AFC Championship Game.

Tom Brady, who threw four touchdowns against the Texans in their first meeting (a 42-14 New England win), will be looking to manhandle Houston’s secondary again, but he knows J.J. Watt and company aren’t willing to just lie down and take the beating.

The Patriots’ defense could also face some trouble against this potent Texans attack. Arian Foster, who was held to just 45 yards on the ground last time out, tore up the Bengals for 174 total yards last weekend, and the talented running back has all the intentions of more big runs inside Gillette Stadium. Vince Wilfork, Brandon Spikes and the rest of the Patriots’ front seven may have something to say about that, but it will be a major determining factor in this epic battle.

Foster’s success will dictate quarterback Matt Schaub’s ability to run effective play-action passes and increase wide receiver Andre Johnson’s chances of getting open down the field.

The X-factor for both sides will lie with the tight ends, though. Rob Gronkowski, who missed the first meeting with a broken forearm, is back and ready to contribute at 100 percent, while Owen Daniels has eyes for another big day similar to his nine-catch performance last Saturday.

And, thanks to the Broncos losing, the winner of this game will host the AFC Championship.

There are plenty of storylines to follow, but don’t worry, because we’ve got you covered.

Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m., but we’ll have all your news, notes and analysis on everything Patriots popping off right here all day long. So, keep it locked with the NESN.com live blog, and stay up to date on everything Patriots.

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.