Here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the Patriots harder-than-expected 34-16 victory over the Texans to advance to next Sunday's AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium.
Julian Edelman –Though not all the production came in a traditional manner, Edelman continued to put up big numbers. Edelman had game highs with 13 targets and eight receptions, tallying 137 yards. He now has a Patriots postseason franchise record 78 receptions, passing Wes Welker. Edelman took a pounding to get the job done, but he now has 288 yards in his last two games. He was Tom Brady's most consistent, proactive target from start to finish, and it's far from the first time that's been the case.
Logan Ryan –* *New England's No. 2 corner came out fired up and making plays. He had a nice pass defense on a third-down stop on the Texans second drive. He notched a sack of Brock Osweiler on a blitz on the next series. He then added a diving interception of a terrible Osweiler overthrow off DeAndre Hopkins hands in the second half. Ryan's stat line of seven tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, a QB hit, an interception and three passes defensed is very impressive to open the postseason for the would-be free agent.
Devin McCourty – The Pro Bowl safety kicked off the second-half pick party, cutting in front of Hopkins on an out in the third quarter with Houston nearing midfield. McCourty also had a key tackle to shut down at Lamar Miller run earlier in the third quarter, the last line of defense saving a potentially even bigger play, on one of his five tackles on the night. New England's pass defense did not allow a completion longer than 19 yards all night and McCourty gets plenty of credit for that.
Michael Floyd –* *The relative newcomer was targeted three times, leading to one reception for 9 yards, an interception and a near pick. The first of Brady's two interceptions deflected right off of Floyd's hands. Another in-cut saw Houston cornerback A.J. Bouye make a quicker break on the ball that was fortunate to land incomplete. Floyd also had an offensive pass interference call. Not a good night for Floyd and in stark contrast to his big game in the regular season finale in Miami.
Offensive line – New England's offensive line has been a positive all season. It was not Saturday night against an impressive Texans front. Center David Andrews struggled with almost every guy in front of him, which included Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and Vince Wilfork at various times. Joe Thuney also struggled in pass protection. Really, though, Houston's front owned the line of scrimmage in both the ground game and in pass rush. Brady took a lot of big hits because of it.
Penalties – New England had too many penalties as a team, coming in a variety of areas. Eric Rowe had a personal foul that wiped out a third-down stop and extended a drive to a field goal for Houston. Matthew Slater had a block in the back to wipe out an Edelman return to the Houston 48. Bill Belichick was visibly upset with Rowe on the sideline. Five penalties for 50 yards isn't a ton, but they are still mistakes that can cost a team in tight postseason action.
Tom Brady –* *Brady was an MVP candidate and set a record with just two interceptions in the regular season. He threw a pair of picks against Houston. Brady is now tied with Brett Favre for most interceptions in postseason history with 30. Brady took beating from the pass rush, seemingly more than the six official QB hits. Even Brady's completions weren't all that pretty, with Belichick saying he threw up some "prayers." Brady finished completing 18 of 38 passes for 287 yards with two touchdowns and the two picks for a 68.6 passer rating in his 32nd career playoff start. The bulk of his production came with 232 yards combined to Edelman and Chris Hogan, chunks of it coming on the "prayer" plays.
Dion Lewis – Lewis had a huge day, most of it for the good of the Patriots victory. He became just the third player in history with a touchdown run, catch and return, first in postseason history. Lewis opened the game's scoring with a 13-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Later in the first quarter he had the 98-yard kickoff return. Lewis then gave the home squad some breathing room with a 1-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. But, Lewis also had a costly fumble on a kickoff return that set up Houston for a touchdown a play later to pull within a point at 14-13 in the second quarter. Lewis also finished with just 41 yards rushing on 13 attempts (3.2 avg) and had just two catches on seven total targets for 23 yards.
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