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Patriots give Houston a problem, 40-7

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Without Laurence Maroney, Vince Wilfork and Ben Watson, coupled with inconsistent play by the Patriots of late, no game could be chalked up as an automatic win but it didn't take long in this one to see the Texans were being overwhelmed and overmatched.

The Patriots defense picked off David Carr four times, sacked him another four times (all in the first half) and generally gave Tom Brady and the Patriots offense short fields to work with.

The result was the offense not really needing a whole lot of yards in order to score points. Brady and crew had 230 yards of total offense with Corey Dillon carrying 20 times for 61 yards and Kevin Faulk with 4 rushes for 22 yards and a touchdown along with 2 catches for 46 yards and a score.

Most important it was a clean game for the home team. Unlike the earlier game against an inferior Detroit team when turnovers kept things close, this time New England took care of the ball with the final score more indicative of the difference between the two teams.

A fake punt attempt early in the first quarter set up New England's first score of the game. The Texans were fourth and 1 on their own 42 and lined up to punt. Instead Jason Simmons tried running for the first down but Larry Izzo and Corey Mays crashed in to make the stop short of the first down stick.

Good field position resulted for the Patriots offense and with Dillon runs of 7 and 15, it only took seven plays before Kevin Faulk ran it in from 11 yards out.

New England quickly upped its lead to 10-0. David Carr dropped back to pass on his first down immediately following Faulk's score and had the ball batted into the air by an onrushing Richard Seymour. Seymour also came up with the interception and the Patriots offense re-took the field first and 10 at the Texans 24. The Texans held New England to 6 yards and Stephen Gostkowski was good on a 36-yard field goal attempt.

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The rout was on when Carr had his second pass tipped on his next series. This time the Texans were moving the ball. They had started on their own 10 and were at midfield when Carr looked to Eric Moulds. Tedy Bruschi managed to reach up and redirect the ball into James Sanders arms who took the return back to the Texans 44. New England took over and after a Dillon run for a yard, Brady threw a little screen to Faulk who found himself behind a convoy of blockers en route to the end zone; his second score of the first quarter and a 17-0 lead for his team.

Gostkowski tacked on another three later in the second quarter with a 32-yard boot. Rosevelt Colvin had stripped-sacked Carr forcing the Texans to punt from their own 16. Troy Brown got hit on the return after calling for a fair catch and the penalty put the ball first and 10 at the Houston 31. Playing it conservative, New England only moved to the 14 before settling for the field goal.

In all, New England sacked Carr four times in the first half, forcing short series for the Texans and good starting field position for the Patriots. After Tully Banta Cain notched his second sack late in the second quarter, Houston punted and the Patriots embarked on yet another scoring drive as the game creeped under two minutes to play in the half. A huge pass interference call on Dunta Robinson who arm barred Reche Caldwell off a deep pass by Brady down the right sideline moved things to the 12 yard line. Three plays later Brady hit Jabar Gaffney from 7 yards out to make the score 27-0.

Houston came out like a different team to start the second half. Seven of its first 10 plays went to Ron Dayne, the final a 1-yard run for the Texans first score of the game, and Houston made the 70-yard scoring drive look easy.

Not quite as easy as Ellis Hobbs return on the ensuing kick, however.

Hobbs fielded the ball on his 7 and ran right up the gut virtually untouched for his first touchdown return of his career. Just like that, New England had its 27-point lead back at 34-7.

Hobbs added another big play to his day, picking off Carr late in the third quarter on an overthrown ball intended for Andre Johnson. That gave the Patriots the ball at the Texans 29-yard line where they worked it on the ground, getting to the 12 as the game moved into the fourth quarter. After Matt Light was flagged for a false start on third and 5, Brady hit Faulk for 3 yards and Gostkowski was good on his third field goal on the day, a 31-yarder to make the score 37-7 with 14:18 left to play.

Not to be outdone by his younger teammate, Asante Samuel picked up his eighth interception of the season on Carr's next series, returning it to the Texan's 6-yard line. Mercifully, New England was unable to find the end zone and Gostkowski nailed a 21-yard field goal for a 40-7 Patriots lead.

With 8:41 left to play, Brady called it a day as Matt Cassel mopped up. Brady's numbers were in no way reflective of the points on the board: 16 of 23 passing for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Cassel engineered four first downs as the game moved to the two-minute warning. From there, Vinny Testaverde entered the loosely-called contest to take the final knees.

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