Final, Patriots 27-6: The Patriots capped off the game in victory formation. This one is over. It was a dominant performance from an underrated Patriots defense.
Fourth quarter, 3:16, Patriots 27-6: The Patriots forced another three-and-out after a third-down sack by Akiem Hicks.
Fourth quarter, 4:53, Patriots 27-6: McCourty officially has been ruled out.
Fourth quarter, 9:15, Patriots 27-6: The Patriots just forced a turnover on downs after a fourth-down sack by Akiem Hicks. They also might have forced Brian Hoyer out of the game. He twisted his knee and hit his head on the turf.
Fourth quarter, 12:04, Patriots 27-6: That could be the dagger.
James White delivered with a 2-yard rushing touchdown, and the Texans trail by three touchdowns.
Easley is questionable with a thigh injury. Freeny is officially out with a hand injury. It seems the Patriots lucked out on what looked like it could have been a season-ender for Easley.
Fourth quarter, 13:25, Patriots 20-6: Jabaal Sheard just came up with a huge strip sack. Rookie defensive tackle Malcolm Brown recovered, and the Patriots have the ball on the Texans’ 7-yard line.
Fourth quarter, 13:37, Patriots 20-6: Another three-and-out, another punt. The Texans have the ball on their own 18-yard line.
Third quarter, 0:59, Patriots 20-6: The Patriots forced ANOTHER three-and-out. The Texans’ drive stalled after a third-down sack by Rob Ninkovich.
Easley remains on the bench. He’s pedaling a stationary bike right now.
Third quarter, 2:37, Patriots 20-6: The Patriots went three-and-out and were forced to punt. The Texans have the ball on their own 39-yard line.
Third quarter, 4:58, Patriots 20-6: The hits just keep coming.
Dominique Easley injured his left knee and walked off the field under his own power. He flexed his knee as he walked off.
He’s now being checked by trainers on the bench.
Third quarter, 7:16, Patriots 20-6: The Patriots went three-and-out, picking up just 7 yards on their ensuing series. The Texans have the ball on their own 39-yard line.
Third quarter, 8:56, Patriots 20-6: The Texans had great field position, but the Patriots forced a turnover on downs. New cornerback Leonard Johnson recorded the pass breakup on fourth down to end the drive.
McCourty is questionable to return with an ankle injury.
Third quarter, 10:32, Patriots 20-6: The Patriots forced a punt, but then Keshawn Martin muffed it, and the Texans recovered. The Texans have the ball on the Patriots’ 22-yard line.
Safety Devin McCourty is heading to the locker room with trainers. They were looking at his right lower leg.
Third quarter, 11:48, Patriots 20-6: After having 15- and 20-yard receptions called back, the Patriots settled for a 49-yard field goal to go up by two touchdowns. Both calls were ruled catches on the field then overturned despite looking very, very close.
Third quarter, 15:00, Patriots 17-6: LeGarrette Blount has been ruled out with the hip injury. Jonathan Freeny also isn’t on the Patriots’ bench.
Second quarter, 0:14, Patriots 17-6: The Patriots are looking pretty smart to activate Rob Gronkowski.
The big tight end just pulled in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brady.
He has three catches on three targets for 52 yards after that score.
Blount didn’t emerge from the locker room, and Bolden took over early-down carries.
Second quarter, 2:45, Patriots 10-6: Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins picked up his first catch of the game — a 5-yarder. Patriots corner Logan Ryan is tracking him across the field.
The Texans were forced to punt. The Patriots have the ball on the Texans’ 41-yard line.
Second quarter, 3:02, Patriots 10-6: Blount is questionable to return with a hip injury. Linebacker Jonathan Freeny is questionable to return with a hand injury.
Second quarter, 4:15, Patriots 10-6: The Patriots were forced to punt after a costly holding penalty by rookie guard Tre’ Jackson.
Ryan Allen’s punt placed the Texans on their own 3-yard line.
Blount limped to the locker room with the training staff. They were checking his left leg on the sideline.
Second quarter, 7:58, Patriots 10-6: LeGarrette Blount remained on the turf after a 6-yard pickup. He has 10 carries for 53 yards so far. He walked off under his own power after being checked by trainers.
The Patriots have James White and Brandon Bolden behind Blount on the depth chart.
Second quarter, 9:26, Patriots 10-6: More field goals here in Houston.
The Patriots let up a 37-yard carry to Akeem Hunt then halted the Texans’ offense, forcing a 45-yard field goal.
Second quarter, 12:13, Patriots 10-3: The Patriots went 57 yards on 11 plays and capped off the drive with a field goal.
Brandon LaFell couldn’t extend the drive with a costly drop on second down. He already has the NFL’s highest drop rate this season.
End first quarter, Patriots 7-3: Before the quarter ended, LeGarrette Blount picked up this 17-yard carry, 15 yards of which came after bouncing off Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.
First quarter, 2:38, Patriots 7-3: That drive was a bit of an adventure, as the Texans drove 60 yards down the field on nine plays and wrapped it up with a field goal.
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler gave up a 49-yard reception to Texans wideout Nate Washington. New Patriots cornerback Leonard Johnson, who’s manning the slot, made a pass breakup on third down to force the field goal.
First quarter, 7:22, Patriots 7-0: The Patriots took the early lead on a TD pass from Tom Brady to Martin.
Rob Gronkowski played four snaps and picked up a 45-yard catch to help the Patriots drive down the field.
First quarter, 9:30: The Patriots forced another three-and-out, then receiver Keshawn Martin, a former member of the Texans, returned the punt 21 yards for New England.
First quarter, 11:23: The Texans, in turn, made quick work of the Patriots’ offense. LeGarrette Blount ran the ball twice for 1 yard, then Brady threw incomplete deep to Brandon LaFell.
First quarter, 13:01: The Patriots made quick work of the Texans’ offense, forcing a three-and-out. Chris Polk had two carries for 2 yards. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley sacked Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer on third down.
New cornerback Leonard Johnson and linebacker Jon Bostic were notable starters.
First quarter, 15:00: The Patriots called heads, won the toss and chose to defer. The Texans will begin with the ball.
The Patriots’ path to a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs looks a lot easier after the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, both of whom came into the day with 10-2 records like New England, lost Sunday afternoon.
The Bengals also might have lost their quarterback, Andy Dalton, for the season with a thumb injury.
7:00 p.m.: Here are the Patriots’ inactives:
WR Julian Edelman
LB Dont’a Hightower
G Josh Kline
DT Sealver Siliga
S Tavon Wilson
WR Damaris Johnson
DE Geneo Grissom
6:25 p.m.: Patriots safety Tavon Wilson and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga are running sideline to sideline on the NRG Stadium field. Based on past pregame warmups, that could be an indication they’ll be inactive.
5:30 p.m. ET: The New England Patriots have arrived at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Former Patriots linebacker and current Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel greeted Tom Brady as soon as the New England quarterback stepped onto the turf. They chatted for about five minutes with Vrabel’s son and Patriots safety Nate Ebner.
It was reported by multiple outlets Saturday night and Sunday morning that tight end Rob Gronkowski will play against the Texans despite being listed as questionable with a knee injury. Gronkowski suffered the knee injury in the Patriots’ Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos and missed four practices. He returned to practice Thursday and Friday, and he was limited in both sessions.
Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and guard Josh Kline already have been ruled out.
Stay here for updates and analysis throughout the game, which kicks off at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) warms up before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports