Patriots rout Texans, regain AFC pole position

Mon Dec 14, 2015 1:22am EST
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(The Sports Xchange) - The Patriots rightfully celebrated the return from injury of tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday night, but it was the New England defense that left the most lasting, unforgettable impression.

The Patriots' defensive front bludgeoned Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer throughout and helped New England clinch a seventh consecutive playoff berth with a 27-6 victory over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

Gronkowski set up the first touchdown in the first quarter and recorded the second late in the second quarter to provide the Patriots (11-2) with what proved to be an insurmountable 11-point lead at the break.

The cushion was comfortable thanks to the New England defense, which harassed Hoyer relentlessly as the Patriots snapped a brief two-game skid.

"These guys did a good job, they really did," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of his defense. "We played a lot of different people as we've been doing on the front.

"Our linebackers did their job, they did coverage. We gave up three big plays, but on a down-in, down-out basis, I thought we competed well, tackled pretty well and we were able to get off the field on third down."

The Patriots regained possession of the top seed in the AFC standings after the Cincinnati Bengals (10-3) and Denver Broncos (10-3) lost earlier Sunday.

The Texans (6-7) amassed 17 yards on 17 plays in the third quarter, with Patriots ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard recording sacks of Hoyer that totaled 31 yards.

After the Patriots produced just a 49-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal in the third quarter, New England stretched their lead to three touchdowns early in the fourth following yet another sack of Hoyer.   Continued...

Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) takes a snap during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports