FOXBORO, Mass. — The scoreboard doesn’t show it, but the Houston Texans kept their divisional-round playoff matchup against the New England Patriots much closer than anyone expected.
The Patriots led by just four points at halftime before going on a run to end the game and win by 18.
Here are the players who stood out in the Patriots’ 34-16 win to advance to the AFC Championship Game, which will be played Sunday, Jan. 22, at Gillette Stadium against either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Kansas City Chiefs.
RB DION LEWIS
Lewis started the game with a bang, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter. His first came on a 13-yard reception, which he caught the pass, then turned around the left edge before scampering into the end zone. He also returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the Patriots’ first touchdown on a kick return in their playoff history.
Lewis added a third touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run. He also fumbled a kickoff, leading to a Texans score.
Lewis had just two catches on six targets for 23 yards and 13 carries for 41 yards.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman was quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to receiver, hauling in eight catches on 13 targets for 137 yards. Edelman has been absolutely on fire for the Patriots in the second half of the season. He appeared to lose a step because of a foot injury early in the season, but he since has regained it and more.
Edelman also returned four punts for 26 yards and had one carry for 12 yards.
WR CHRIS HOGAN
Hogan caught four passes on four targets for 95 yards before leaving the game with a thigh injury. The Patriots have great depth at wide receiver, but they’re starting to get shallow again with just Edelman, Michael Floyd and Danny Amendola healthy.
LB ROB NINKOVICH
Ninkovich had an early sack, and he also broke up a pass in the middle of the field. He had two total tackles in his hybrid defensive end/linebacker role.
CB LOGAN RYAN
Ryan let up just three catches on seven targets for 95 yards, and he also had two pass breakups, both of which came on third down, and an interception. He sacked Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, too.
Perhaps Ryan’s most impressive trait Saturday night was his tackling. He didn’t let anyone behind him, and he made multiple key tackles on third down.
Ryan had up-and-down moments early in the season, but he has come on strong at the end. He’ll be a free agent soon and could be paid big money on the open market.
FS DEVIN MCCOURTY
McCourty let up only one 2-yard catch on four targets and had an interception. He was targeted on Ryan’s interception and helped bounce the ball in the air on the play.
Safety Duron Harmon, like Ryan and McCourty a Rutgers product, also had an interception.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images