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Patriots face Texans in regular-season home finale

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS(9-4) vs.HOUSTON TEXANS* (4-9)
*Sunday, December 17, 2006
Gillette Stadium (68,756) - 1:00 p.m. EST

The Patriots host the Houston Texans this week in the final 2006 regular-season game at Gillette Stadium. The game is the first in a three-game stretch against teams from the AFC South to close out the regular season. The Patriots and Texans will square off for just the second time since Houston entered the NFL in 2002. The Texans will make their first trip to Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots hold a 20-4 record against first-time visitors.

PLAYOFF SCENARIOThe Patriots can clinch the 2006 AFC East championship and a berth in the playoffs with a victory over the Texans at Gillette Stadium this week and a New York Jets loss or tie to the Minnesota Vikings on the road. The Patriots can also clinch the division if their game against the Texans ends in a tie and the Jets lose at Minnesota. The Patriots have won a franchise-record three straight AFC East titles and have won four of the last five division crowns dating back to 2001. New England has won six division titles in the 12 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 and has led the NFL over that span with 139 total victories, 13 playoff wins, four conference championships and three Super Bowl titles. The Patriots have won nine division crowns in their 46-year history.

DOMINANT IN DECEMBER
When the calendar turns to the 12th month, the New England weather may turn cold, but in recent years the Patriots have remained red hot. Since Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, the Patriots have recorded a 20-6 (.769) record in games played in the month of December. New England has won 13 of its last 15 games in the month of December - a streak that dates back to 2002.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS. The game can be seen in Boston on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties and Rich Gannon will provide analysis.

RADIO: WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 30th season as the voice of the Patriots and will call the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti for the 23rd season.

SERIES HISTORY
The Patriots and Texans will meet for the second time since Houston entered the NFL in 2002. This week's game will mark the Texans' first trip to New England, where the Patriots are 20-4 against first-time opponents. The teams met in Houston on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2003, and the Patriots claimed a 23-20 overtime victory in their first of two trips to Reliant Stadium that season (the other was for Super Bowl XXXVIII). Before the Texans joined the league, the Patriots and the Houston Oilers were old 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.

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
The Patriots have an all-time record of 69-43-1 (.615) against the teams that make up the AFC South. It is the only division in the NFL where the Patriots own a winning record against each team. New England owns winning marks against Tennessee (20-16-1), Indianapolis (43-26), Jacksonville (5-1) and Houston (1-0). New England has won nine of its last 11 games against AFC South teams. The Patriots play each of the four AFC South teams this season as part of the NFL's scheduling rotation. New England fell to Indianapolis, 27-20 on Nov. 5, and ends its season with three consecutive games against AFC South teams - vs. Houston (12/17), at Jacksonville (12/24) and at Tennessee (12/31).

PASSING PERFORMANCESTom Brady will make his second career start against Houston and compiled one of the highest yardage totals of his career in his first start against the Texans. In his first start against Houston on Nov. 23, 2003, Brady threw for 368 yards, marking the fourth highest yardage total of his career, trailing only a 410 yard performance against Kansas City on Sept. 22, 2002, and a pair of 372-yard games - at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2005 and at Minnesota on Oct. 30, 2006. Houston's David Carr is slated to make his first start against the Patriots. In the teams' 2003 meeting, Carr was inactive as the Texans' third quarterback as Tony Banks got the starting nod.

QUICK HITS

  • This week's game will be the 136th consecutive home sellout for the Patriots, extending a streak that dates back to the 1994 regular-season opener - Robert Kraft's first regular-season game as the Patriots' owner. This week's game is also the 274th consecutive Patriots game televised locally. New England fans have never faced a local television blackout since Kraft purchased the team.
  • With this week's sellout at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots will complete their 13th consecutive season in which every regularseason game has been sold out. Every regular season has been sold out since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994.
  • Following this week's game, the Patriots will play their final two contests on the road (at Jacksonville and at Tennessee). New England is one of just three NFL teams to play each of its last two games on the road (also Arizona and Carolina).
  • The Patriots are 18-15-1 overall against teams from Houston, including a 1-0 record against the Texans and a 17-15-1 record against the Houston Oilers (1960-96).

CONNECTIONS

  • Patriots wide receiver Jabar Gaffney played for the Texans for four seasons from 2002-05, playing in 64 games with 50 starts for the team after being drafted by Houston in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft.
  • Patriots linebacker Larry Izzo played his junior and senior high school seasons at McCullough High in Houston, where his family still resides. Izzo was a four-year letterman and threeyear starter at Rice University in Houston.
  • Patriots defensive lineman Ty Warren was born on Feb. 6, 1981 in Bryan, Texas, about 100 miles from Houston. He attended Bryan High School. Warren attended Texas A&M, where he started 25 games for the Aggies from 1999-2002.
  • Patriots tight end Daniel Graham and Texans offensive tackle Brad Bedell were teammates at the University of Colorado from 1998-1999.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Russ Hochstein and Texans kicker Kris Brown played together at the University of Nebraska from 1997-1998.
  • Patriots defensive back Antwain Spann and Texans safety C.C. Brown were teammates for a season at Louisiana- Lafayette in 2004.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins and Texans quarterback David Carr played together at Fresno State from 2000-2001.
  • Patriots linebacker Corey Mays and Texans strong safety Glenn Earl played together for three season at Notre Dame from 2001-2003. Mays also played with Texans defensive tackle Anthony Weaver at Notre Dame in 2001.
  • Patriots defensive lineman Mike Wright played at the University of Cincinnati with Texans linebacker Troy Evans (2001) and defensive end Antwan Peek (2001-2002).
  • Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was a teammate of Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson (2002) and offensive tackle Eric Winston (2002-2003) at the University of Miami.
  • Patriots linebacker Larry Izzo and Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu were three-year teammates at Rice from 1993-1995.
  • Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods and Texans linebacker Shantee Orr played together at the University of Michigan from 2001-2002.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Wesley Britt and Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans were three-year teammates at the University of Alabama from 2002-2004.
  • Patriots defensive back Rashad Baker and Texans guard Fred Weary played together at the University of Tennessee from 2000-2001.
  • Texans quarterback Quinton Porter played at Boston College from 2003-2005.
  • Texans safety Michael Stone played with the Patriots in 2005.
  • Patriots tight ends coach Pete Mangurian served on the Denver Broncos coaching staff from 1988-1991 while Texans head coach Gary Kubiak was Denver's backup quarterback.
  • Texans offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who was born in Norwood, Mass., played defensive end and offensive tackle at Central Connecticut State University, and coached at the College of the Holy Cross from 1985-1987.
  • Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano coached Patriots defensive lineman Don Davis (1999-2000) and Russ Hochstein (2001) while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Texans defensive line coach Bob Karmelowicz is a native of Plainville, Conn., and was a three-year starter and a consensus Little All-America nose tackle at the University of Bridgeport. In 1980, Karmelowicz was the offensive line coach at UMass.
  • Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Texans defensive line assistant Tracy Simien played together with the San Diego Chargers in 1999.
  • Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley, who is a native of Manchester, N.H., graduated from Keene State.
  • Patriots defensive back Chad Scott played with Texans kicker Kris Brown (1999-2002), tight end Mark Bruener (1997- 2003) and defensive back Jason Simmons (1998-2001) while with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Patriots offensive lineman Russ Hochstein and Texans fullback Jameel Cook were teammates with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2002.
  • Patriots linebacker Don Davis played with Texans cornerback Dexter McCleon (2001-2002) and Texans linebacker Troy Evans (2001) on the St. Louis Rams.

FIRST-TIME VISITORS
The Houston Texans will make their first visit to Gillette Stadium this week, becoming the 25th different opponent to travel to the Patriots' state-of-the-art facility for a regular-season or playoff game. New England holds an all-time record of 20-4 against firsttime visitors to Gillette Stadium and have won 16 of its last 17 games against teams making their inaugural appearance there. The Texans are the final AFC team to play their first game at Gillette Stadium - following this week's game, only six NFC clubs (listed below) have not yet appeared at Gillette Stadium.

DIGGING DEEP - OFFENSE

82.4 %The Patriots' NFL-leading fourth-down conversion rate this season. They have been successful on 14-of-17 fourth-down tries.

30The number of goal-to-go situations the Patriots offense has been in this season. The mark is tied for the highest in the NFL.

108.6The Patriots' team passer rating inside the 30-yared line this season. The mark is the second highest in the NFL (San Diego, 116.8).

63.8The percentage of the time the Patriots have scored a touchdown when they have entered the red zone this season. The mark is the third best in the NFL (San Diego 70.9, Indianapolis 64.7).

3.60The average number of yards per play gained by the Patriots when they are in the red zone. The mark is second in the NFL (San Diego, 3.69)

51.0The percentage of Patriots first-down plays that have gained four or more yards this season. The mark ranks fourth in the NFL.

274The number of first downs the Patriots have gained this season. The mark ranks fourth in the NFL.

76.7The percentage of times the Patriots have scored a touchdown while in a goal-to-go situation. The mark ranks third in the NFL (San Diego 92.9, N.Y. Giants 77.8).

26.1The Patriots' NFL-leading kickoff return average this season. Primary returner Laurence Maroney ranks second in the league with an average of 28.7 yards per return.

DIGGING DEEP - DEFENSE

16The number of touchdowns allowed by the Patriots defense this season. It is the lowest total in the NFL.

49.9Patriots opponents' passer rating inside the 30-yard line this season. The mark is the lowest in the NFL.

25.0The percentage that Patriots opponents have scored a touchdown when driving inside of the 30-yard line this season. The mark is the second lowest in the NFL (Baltimore, 23.3).

2The number of rushes of 20 yards or longer allowed by the Patriots this season. The mark is the best in the NFL.

0The number of quick-strike scoring drives (four plays or less) that the Patriots defense has allowed this season. The Patriots are the only team in the NFL to have not allowed any such drives this season.

16The total number of points that the Patriots have allowed in the final two minutes of either the first or second half this season. The total is the best in the NFL.

112The total number of points the Patriots have allowed in their last eight games - the fewest in the NFL over that span.

33.9The percentage of opponents rushes that gave gone for four yards or longer. The mark is the second best in the NFL.

STINGY DEFENSE

14.3The average number of points per game the Patriots have allowed in 2006.

3The Patriots' NFL rank in points allowed per game. Only Baltimore (13.1) and Chicago (13.6) rank higher.

14.9The Patriots team record for fewest points allowed per game in a full season, achieved in 2004.

17.55The average number of points per game the Patriots have allowed since 2001, a mark that ranks second in the NFL over that span, trailing only Tampa Bay.

15.95The average number of points per game that the Patriots have allowed at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002. The mark represents the fewest points per game allowed at home over that span.

13The number of times Bill Belichick's defenses have finished in the NFL's top 10 in fewest points allowed since he was first named a defensive coordinator in 1985.

THE KRAFT ERA

139The number of regular-season and playoff victories the Patriots have earned since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994. That mark represents the highest total in the NFL over that span.

4The number of times the Patriots have appeared in the Super Bowl since Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994. No other team has made more than two Super Bowl appearances in that span.

139-84The Patriots' overall record since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 (including postseason), a .623 winning percentage. The figure ranks second in the NFL over that span.

78-33The Patriots' record at home since 1994, including regularseason and postseason games, a winning percentage of .703.

34-9The Patriots' record at Gillette Stadium, including regular-season and postseason games (.791 win pct).

6The number of AFC East titles the Patriots have won since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994.

6The number of consecutive seasons in which the Patriots have won nine or more games, a mark that represents the longest current streak in the NFL.

THE HEAD COACH

32The number of years Bill Belichick has been an NFL coach, making him the longest tenured among the 32 head coaches.

7The number of head coaches in the NFL or college who were assistant coaches under Belichick (Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Nick Saban, Charlie Weis, Kirk Ferentz, Pat Hill and Al Groh).

42-2Belichick's record in New England when the Patriots score 25 points or more.

63-5Belichick's record in New England when the Patriots score 21 points or more.

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