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Game Preview: New England Patriots travel Houston to take on the Texans

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-2) at HOUSTON TEXANS (6-6)
Sunday Dec. 13, 2015 at 8:30 p.m. ET. NRG Stadium (71,795)

The New England Patriots will attempt to get back in the win column after losing two straight games when they travel to play the Houston Texans in a Sunday Night Football matchup.

Despite the losing effort last week against Philadelphia, QB Tom Brady passsed for 312 yards and three touchdowns to push his 2015 totals to an NFL-leading 3,912 yards and 31 touchdowns. It is the sixth time in his career that he has reached at least 30 touchdowns to become the fourth player in NFL history with at least 30 or more touchdowns passes in six seasons, joining Brett Favre (9), Peyton Manning (9) and Drew Brees (7).

Brady needs 88 yards passing this week to reach 4,000 passing yards for the eighth time in his career and join Peyton Manning (14) and Drew Brees (9) as the only players with eight 4,000-yard passing seasons.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on WHDH-TV Channel 7 in Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work the sidelines. The game will be produced by Fred Gaudelliand directed by Drew Esocoff.

NATIONAL RADIO:This week's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One Sports. Kevin Kugler and James Lofton will call the game.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 FM, The Sports Hub, is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. Produced by Marc Cappello.

BELICHICK LOOKING FOR ELEVEN

Bill Belichick is one win shy of his 13th 11-win season, which would tie Don Shula for most in NFL history. Belichick has 11 seasons with at least 11 wins with New England and one such season with Cleveland.

The New England Patriots have defeated the Houston Texans in five of six meetings since the teams first began playing in 2003. Here's a look back at those games. 

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots and Texans will meet for the sixth time in the regular season and for the seventh time overall since Houston entered the NFL in 2002.

The Patriots and Texans last met on Dec. 1, 2013, in Houston, with the Patriots taking a 34-31 victory.

New England is 4-1 overall against Houston in the regular season, including 2-1 at Houston.

The Patriots and Texans met in the 2012 postseason in an AFC Divisional playoff game that was won by the Patriots, 41-28, on Jan. 13, 2013, at Gillette Stadium

The Patriots only loss against Houston was in the final game of the 2009 regular season, when Houston defeated the Patriots, 34-27. The Patriots had already clinched the division prior to that game and Tom Brady was relieved for portions of that game by then backup QB Brian Hoyer. Before the Texans joined the league, the Patriots and the Houston Oilers were foes dating back to the days of the American Football League, playing twice a year from 1960-69 and 33 times overall before the Oilers moved to Tennessee following the 1996 season.

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SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY

The Patriots have an all-time record of 89-47-1 (.653) against the teams that make up the AFC South. It is the only division in the NFL where the Patriots own winning records against each team. New England owns winning marks against Tennessee (23-16-1), Indianapolis (51-29), Jacksonville (10-1) and Houston (5-1).

PASSING PERFORMANCES

Tom Brady is slated to start against Houston for the sixth time in his career in the regular season. He is 4-1 in games that he started. In the Week 17 2009 game, the Patriots had already clinched the division, so Brady was relieved for portions of the game by backup Brian Hoyer.

Taking a look at some of the connections between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans.

CONNECTIONS

NEW ENGLAND TIES

  • Texans head coach Bill O'Brien grew up in Andover, Mass., and graduated from St. John's Preparatory School in Danvers. He went on to play linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92, and began his coaching career at his alma mater as the tight ends coach in 1993.
  • Texans director of football research Jim Bernhardt spent four years coaching at Brown, first defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, then as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.
  • Texans secondary coach John Butlerserved as the special teams coordinator/ linebackers coach at Harvard from 2003-06.
  • Texans head strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald played linebacker at Harvard and served as the director of strength and conditioning at Harvard from 2005-09.
  • Texans defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni attended Cheshire HS in Connecticut and later got his masters from Southern Connecticut State. He began his coaching career at his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1976. In 1980 he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Pasqualoni left Southern Connecticut to become the head coach of Western Connecticut in 1980. He held the role for four years before leaving to accept a position at Syracuse. Pasqualoni returned to the area to become the head coach at Connecticut from 2011-13.
  • Texans tight ends coach John Perry attended New Hampshire and began his coach career at Northeastern in Boston. Perry has coached at many universities in New England, including Northeastern, Brown, New Hampshire, Dartmouth, Merrimack College and Delaware.
  • Texans TE Ryan Griffin attended Connecticut, where he was a two-time second team All-Big East selection.

HOUSTON TIES

  • Patriots WR Danny Amendola was named all-state as a senior after finishing with 60 catches for 864 yards and nine touchdowns and played safety at The Woodlands (Texas) High School, just north of Houston.
  • Patriots wide receivers coach Chad O'Shea is a Houston, Texas native and received his bachelor's degree in psychology in 1995 from the University of Houston, where he played quarterback and was selected as a team captain his senior year. After graduation, O'Shea spent three years coaching in various roles at his alma mater.
  • Patriots WR Brandon Lafell attended Lamar High School in Houston, where he played football, basketball and ran track. LaFell caught 46 passes for 1,116 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior.
  • Patriots T Sebastian Vollmer attended the University of Houston, where he became one of the top linemen in the Conference USA and started his last 25 games at tackle for the Cougars despite playing tight end and blocking back as a sophomore.
  • Patriots DT Malcom Brown is a Brenham, Texas, native and attended Texas where he started 26-of-39 games over his three-year career and finished with 165 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and six passes defense.
  • Patriots OT Cameron Fleming initially attended Harker Heights (Texas) High School as a freshman and sophomore, playing on the offensive line in 2007 before transferring to Cypress Creek High School in Houston as a junior and senior. Fleming helped lead Cypress Creek to a pair of 15-5A district championships and also lettered in basketball.
  • Patriots RB Trey Williams is a Houston native and attended Texas A&M where he rushed for 1,343 yards on 204 carries with 18 touchdowns.

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • Texans head coach Bill O'Brien began his NFL career with the Patriots in 2007. He started as an offensive assistant and left the Patriots as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2011 to become the head coach at Penn State.
  • Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel had two stints with the Patriots coaching staff. Crennel first served as the defensive line coach from 1993- 96. He returned to the team in 2001 as the defensive coordinator. In his four years as the Patriots defensive play caller, New England captured three Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003 and 2004).
  • Texans offensive coordinator George Godsey joined the Patriots coaching staff in 2011 as an offensive assistant and served as the tight ends coach from 2012-13.
  • Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabelplayed in 157 games over eight years for the Patriots, including four Super Bowls. Vrabel helped the Patriots capture three Super Bowls in four years from 2001-04. Vrabel lined up at tight end and caught touchdown passes in two of those victories.
  • Texans QB Brian Hoyer was signed by the Patriots as a rookie free agent in 2009 and spent three years with the team.
  • Texans DT Vince Wilfork played 11 seasons (2004-14) with the Patriots and helped them capture two Super Bowl victories.

FORMER TEXANS

  • Patriots WR Keshawn Martin played in all 48 games of his three-year career (2012-14) as a Houston Texan and caught 38 passes for 416 yards and three touchdowns.

FORMER NFL TEAMMATES

  • Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll served as the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 under Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, who held the role of head coach for the Chiefs at the time.
  • Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennelworked with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick when they both served on the New York Jets defensive coaching staff from 1997-99. They also worked together as members of the New York Giants coaching staff from 1981-1990.
  • Texans special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky worked with Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount when he served as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012.
  • Texans special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky worked under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when McDaniels served as head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2009-10.
  • Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll and Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin worked together on the New York Jets offensive coaching staff from 2007-08.
  • Texans T Chris Clark played for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels when McDaniels served as head coach of the Denver Broncos in 2010.

FORMER COLLEGE TEAMMATES

  • Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower and Texans CB Kareem Jackson were defensive teammates at Alabama from 2008-09.
  • Patriots DB Tavon Wilson and Texans LB Whitney Mercilus were defensive teammates at Illinois from 2009-11.
  • Patriots RB James White and Texans DE J.J. Wattwere teammates for one season at Wisconsin.

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