FOXBORO, Mass. — For the sixth time in as many seasons, the New England Patriots find themselves one win away from the Super Bowl.
Saturday night’s 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium extended the Patriots’ streak of consecutive championship game appearances to a half-dozen, breaking the previous NFL record of five set by the 1970s Oakland Raiders.
Predictably, that record wasn’t at the forefront of Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s mind when he addressed the media after the game.
“I mean, it?s great to be playing at this time of year,” Belichick said. “You?re one of four teams that are left after the weekend. But again, I mean, I don?t really care about the other five years right now, or however many years it?s been. The only thing that matters is this year, this team, and what we have an opportunity to do, what we need to do to move on to play again. We can talk about all of that other stuff some other time.
“For right now, it?s just this team and getting to the AFC Championship Game and playing our best game next weekend. That?s what we?re going to need to do. We?re going to need to play our best game, better than we played (Saturday night).”
Quarterback Tom Brady’s take on the team’s achievement?
“Pretty cool, pretty cool,” Brady said. “Let?s go win the AFC Championship Game. That would be very cool. That?s what we?ve got to do.”
New England’s opponent in the AFC title game will be either the Kansas City Chiefs or the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are set to square off Sunday night in the conference’s other divisional-round showdown.
Some additional notes from Saturday night:
— For the most part, New England’s passing game revolved around Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. The two wide receivers accounted for 12 of Brady’s 18 completions and 232 of his 287 passing yards (though neither of the QB’s two touchdown passes).
Edelman has been incredibly productive for the Patriots of late, racking up 288 receiving yards on 16 catches over New England’s last two games. Hogan chipped in with 95 yards (his third-highest total of the season) on four receptions and has caught each of the last eight passes Brady has thrown his way.
Hogan did not make it through the full game, however. He exited with a thigh injury during the second half and did not return.
NESN.com’s Doug Kyed provided an update on the wideout’s condition after the game.
Michael Floyd, meanwhile, endured a rough game for New England. He caught just one pass for nine yards on three targets, was called for offensive pass interference and had one pass bounce off his hands, resulting in Brady’s first interception since Dec. 12.
Danny Amendola was quiet in his return from an ankle injury that sidelined him for the final four weeks of the regular season. He finished with zero catches on two targets and surprisingly was not used as a punt returner, with Edelman instead handling those duties. Amendola did carry the ball once for 15 yards.
— Saturday was a big night for former Big East schools. Pitt product Dion Lewis scored three touchdowns for the Patriots, and Rutgers alums Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon all picked off Brock Osweiler passes.
McCourty said the identity of Lewis’ college team shows through in the running back’s playing style.
“In college, he played in the Big East, man,” the Patriots safety said. “They make us tough.”
— Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount frequently makes the trip to TD Garden to cheer on Isaiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics. The roles were reversed Saturday night.
As you can see in the video, Thomas’ jersey has Brady’s John Hancock on it. You can read more on the Celtics star’s friendship with the Patriots quarterback right here.
— Speaking of Celtics, Paul Pierce gave a shout-out to former Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who likely played the final game of his career Saturday night.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images