Patriots-Texans Live: New England Wins 34-31 in Squeaker Over Houston As Tom Brady Shines

Kenbrell Thomkins liveblogFinal, Patriots 34-31: That was a lot closer than it should have been.

The Texans have lost 10 straight now and the last few have been just as close as this one. The Patriots won their first away game since September.

It wasn’t pretty for New England, but their defense stepped up when it mattered most. As long as the Patriots’ offense can keep up, they should continue to win despite their awful run defense.

Teams can’t keep running the ball in a shootout. And New England’s pass defense is good enough to hold when it matters.

Tom Brady had another big game, throwing for 371 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Logan Ryan probably stood out most on defense with an interception and two passes defended.

Fourth quarter, :07, Patriots 34-31The Patriots successfully wasted two minutes. Now the Texans need a prayer.

Fourth quarter, 2:07, Patriots 34-31The Patriots’ defense held up when they needed to. On fourth-and-13, New England finally got some pressure on Case Keenum and forced him to throw the ball away.

Fourth quarter, 3:12, Patriots 34-31The Patriots have had chances to break open this game, but haven’t here in the fourth quarter. Stephen Gostkowski has kept them in the game with some massive field goals.

New England took a three-point lead on a 53-yarder by Gostkowski.

Fourth quarter, 6:44, 31-31We’re still tied up here. The Texans couldn’t get anything going on that drive.

The Patriots have the ball at the 33-yard line.

Fourth quarter, 7:16, 31-31Houston could have a big chance here. The Patriots were not able to regain the lead. Stephen Gostkowski tied the game with a long field goal.

Fourth quarter, 11:28, Texans 31-28The Patriots are right back down. Kyle Arrington allowed a 66-yard reception to DeAndre Hopkins and Ben Tate finished the drive with an easy 8-yard touchdown.

Fourth quarter, 13:09, Patriots 28-24And the Patriots have retaken the lead. Tom Brady is really on right now. He hit Gronk, Develin, Bolden and Edelman. LeGarrette Blount ended the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.

End third quarter, Texans 24-21This game seems to be racing by. We’re already in the fourth quarter. James Develin continues to have a big game. Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen are making their presences known, too.

With Dobson and Thompkins out, the Patriots have had to go small at the X receiver. It’s been Edelman and Boyce, though Boyce hasn’t been in much. Matthew Slater was in at receiver on the last snap of the half.

Fortunately for New England, they have more than enough offensive weapons.

Third quarter, 2:11, Texans 24-21This one is staying close for now. It’s another rough day for the Patriots’ run defense. The fact that they’re sticking with zone coverage over man isn’t helping things in the passing game either.

Dont’a Hightower is having another rough game. It will be interesting to see if Dane Fletcher gets more snaps moving forward. Sealver Siliga has got beat in the middle a couple of times too.

Case Keenum scored on a naked boot.

Third quarter, 8:06, Patriots 21-17That didn’t take long for the Patriots.

Just six minutes and 54 seconds into the second half, New England has the lead. Julian Edelman had three receptions on the drive. Tom Brady connected with a wide-open Shane Vereen for the touchdown.

The Patriots have proven to be a second-half team. Better than being a first-half team.

Third quarter, 11:10, Texans 17-14Three and out for the Texans on their first first-half drive. It’s not looking good for Houston now.

The Patriots’ run defense finally stepped up on third-and-1. Joe Vellano, Chris Jones and Brandon Spikes were all around the ball.

Third quarter, 12:41, Texans 17-14Let’s not count out the Patriots just yet. It took just two minutes and 19 seconds for the Patriots to cut the Texans’ lead to three points.

Rob Gronkowski powered his way down the field for a 50-yard gain. The drive ended with James Develin bouncing his way up and down the goal line before finally blowing through for a touchdown.

End half, Texans 17-7The Patriots continue to let up pressure to the Texans’ lead. New England couldn’t score before the half. If they had, they could have taken the lead off the half.

That was a really sloppy half by the Patriots though nowhere near as they have looked at times this season. Brady has completed just 11-of-18 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

The Patriots can’t really run the ball nor can they stop the run. That’s an issue. And the Texans’ defense is good enough to realize that, putting their efforts into stopping Brady and the passing game.

Second quarter, 1:47, Texans 17-7It’s gotten worse. Ben Tate just shredded through the middle of the Patriots’ defense for a 20-yard touchdown run.

They’re going to have to solidify the run defense for win this game. That probably means more Isaac Sopoaga in the middle of the defense. Chris Jones and Joe Vellano are not getting the job done.

Seams are opening quickly, and despite being solid run defenders and big bodies, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower are not getting off blocks and making plays.

Second quarter, 4:50, Texans 10-7The Patriots were in pretty good field position, but then Brady’s pocked dissolved and he had to go down before being creamed by Whitney Mercilus. Stephen Gostkowski missed a 55-yard field goal attempt.

Houston will have good field position again.

Second quarter, 10:56, Texans 10-7The Texans were driving, but then the Houston line started giving up pressure and it all went to hell. Logan Ryan picked off Case Keenum as the signal caller was being hit by Andre Carter. Rob Ninkovich also had pressure on the play.

Ryan has three picks on the season now. He’s been a playmaker in the defense.

The Texans picked up big yards when Keenum found a wide-open Keshawn Martin earlier in the drive. The Patriots have struggled in zone coverage this game.

End first quarter, Texans 10-7After the first quarter, the Patriots trail 10-7, but it’s not looking all bad for New England.

The Patriots did appear to come out a little sluggish. But the Texans are pretty much always sluggish it appears.

First quarter, 1:25, Texans 10-7The Patriots are on the board.

Rob Gronkowski caught a shoe-string catch from Tom Brady then rolled into the end zone. He finished it all off with a Gronk spike. It was not one of Brady’s better throws.

Kenbrell Thompkins hurt his groin on that drive. He came off the field to be replaced by Josh Boyce. Shane Vereen had some nice runs on that drive.

First quarter, 4:10, Texans 10-0The Texans couldn’t even take two minutes off the clock on that drive, but they still put up three points.

Ben Tate came off the field with a leg injury for Houston. That would leave them with rookie Dennis Johnson at running back.

First quarter, 5:42, Texans 7-0The poor start continues for New England. After a nice catch from Julian Edelman and a power run from LeGarrette Blount, Tom Brady was picked off by Johnathan Joseph. He put a little too much touch on the pass to Rob Gronkowski. The ball was underthrown.

Texans have good field position again.

First quarter, 8:44, Texans 7-0The Texans take the early lead here. Andre Johnson got wide open on two catches when the Patriots dropped back into zone. Then Ben Tate took it in for six on a carry.

This Houston team has plenty of talent. The Patriots have to take them seriously.

First quarter, 10:59Three and out for the Patriots on their first drive. Brady completed a three-yard pass to Julian Edelman. Then Bolden carried the ball for one yard and Kenbrell Thompkins was overthrown down the right sideline.

Not a great start for the Patriots’ offense.

First quarter, 12:23The Patriots’ defense didn’t exactly do much to stop the Texans, Houston halted themselves.

Rookie running back tripped in the backfield on one snap. And on third-and-3, quarterback Case Keenum chucked it over Johnson’s head on what would have been a first down if complete.

Jamie Collins and Duron Harmon started for the Patriots over Dane Fletcher and Steve Gregory. Logan Ryan was the team’s third cornerback. Dont’a Hightower started despite being benched midway through last week’s game.

First quarter, 15:00The Texans won the kickoff and elected to receive.

Stevan Ridley is on the bench in street clothes holding a football.

12:51 p.m.The Patriots should have no problem with the Texans, given that they’ve lost nine straight games, but New England has certainly dropped worse games in the past.

I’m not expecting a huge day out of Tom Brady, but he should be highly efficient. I think Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen are able to go off against Houston.

The Reliant Stadium roof is open. There are lots of complaints about the turf in Houston. The grass basically looks like a patchwork quilt. Wes Welker tore his ACL at Reliant Stadium in 2009.

12:25 p.m.There’s a good chance we see our first glimpse of D.J. Williams today. He’s active after being signed this week. He’s an undersized H-back-type tight end. He probably won’t be much help blocking, but he could add another element to the passing game at tight end.

12:10 p.m.If you’re looking for some pregame reading, check out how the Patriots could handle their linebackers against the Texans. Dont’a Hightower was benched in the second half for Dane Fletcher and Jamie Collins.

The situation gets a little messier with Gregory back. Gregory had worn the communication helmet before breaking his thumb. Hightower wore it in the first half, Fletcher took it in the second half.

12:03 p.m.Steve Gregory and Josh Boyce are active this week after being out last week. Gregory will likely play with a cast on his right hand. He broke his thumb before the bye.

Boyce hasn’t got much playing time this season. Fellow rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have been far more active. Boyce will likely only play if Thompkins struggles and in four-wide receiver sets.

11:31 a.m.The inactives are out and there’s a bit of a shocker included. Running back Stevan Ridley has been declared inactive for New England.

He joins Aaron Dobson, Alfonzo Dennard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Marcus Cannon, Jake Bequette and Steve Beauharnais. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are expected to get the bulk of the touches this afternoon at running back.

8 a.m. ET: This game looked a lot more interesting before the season started.

Last year’s AFC divisional playoff game seems ages away now as the Texans head into Week 13 with a 2-9 record while the Patriots look ready for another playoff run at 8-3. Houston still has a fair share of talented players, with J.J. Watt, Andre Johnson, Antonio Smith and Johnathan Joseph, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

The Texans won their first two games of the season, then strung together nine straight losses. New England will try to make that 10 this afternoon.

Aqib Talib will be matched up with Johnson, Kenbrell Thompkins will likely have to deal with Joseph and the entire offensive line will have to block Watt and Smith, since the two defensive linemen move around so much. The Patriots will be without Alfonzo Dennard, Aaron Dobson, Michael Hoomanawanui and Marcus Cannon. In their place, Logan Ryan, Thompkins, Matthew Mulligan and Will Svitek will receive extended reps.

All four players looked impressive last week. Ryan allowed just one catch on four targets, Thompkins was a second-half spark for Tom Brady and the offense, Mulligan was his usual solid self run blocking and Svitek handled Shaun Phillips just fine.

The Patriots’ four remaining opponents have a 22-30 record. That means New England will have to avoid a trap game to finish the season. This is the team’s first “test” to avoid that letdown game.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m., but stay here for all the latest news and updates from the pregame.

Have a question for Doug Kyed? Send it to him via Twitter at @DougKyedNESN or send it here.

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