Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 1/13/13
Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels loses the ball while being stopped by New England Patriots’ Steve Gregory, Brandon Deaderick and Jerod Mayo during the second half of an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. The play had been stopped before Daniels dropped the ball. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) There are a handful of teams in the NFL who have asserted themselves as top tier franchises. Then there are about three who are a step above even those – the best of the best. On Sunday, the New England Patriots proved once again that they belong to the latter statement and the Houston Texans were relegated to the former. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in Gillette Stadium in the second of two heartbreaking losses for Houston at the hands of New England. After a record setting year for the young Texans franchise full of promise and endless potential, the Bulls on parade came to sudden halt upon facing off with the Patriots dynasty. Right now that’s the difference: New England has established its dominance and been able to reaffirm it season after season, while Houston is still learning how to operate as a dominate team. It seems simple right? If you’re team is better than all the others then you win. And that’s exactly what happened as the Texans dismantled the majority of their opponents this season. But when pitted against the best in the league (i.e. Green Bay, New England, etc.), Houston could no longer control games as they did when they played the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville, Miami and Tennessee. The Texans were challenged by teams with great talent to match their own and the games then became more than physical dominance and execution. New England had Houston figured out in both meetings between the two teams this year. The Patriots pushed the Texans out of their comfort zone and left Houston in disarray and trying to find their next level of performance. Unfortunately, the Texans will now have a lot of time to figure things out before they take another crack at a Super Bowl run.   Sunday’s second-round playoff game was won and lost in missed opportunities. After keeping the game close through the first half, the Texans came out of halftime down only four. New England immediately came out and scored to start the second half. Houston went three-and-out and punted. But despite a lousy first possession of the half, the Texans got a break when the defense stopped Tom Brady and the passing attack and forced the Patriots to punt. Unfortunately, however, the Texans couldn’t take advantage and instead of finding wide receiver James Casey, Matt Schaub connected with Patriot’s linebacker Rob Ninkovich. Over the third quarter and first minutes of the fourth, New England amassed 21 points to the Texans’ zero. Down 31-13, there was little hope for Houston, but the boys battled back and pulled to within 10 with five minutes left in the game. Shayne Graham attempted an onside kick that was wonderfully executed, bouncing over the grass like a choppy grounder to third, and sent the Patriots’ hands team into a frenzy. But despite a Texans bounce none of the Houston team could corral the ball. New England took possession and the game, running nearly four minutes off the clock on a drive that ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. With a minute left in the game, the Texans took over, but there was no magic to be had and the Houston season abruptly met its conclusion.   Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans hands the ball off to Arian Foster #23 during the 2013 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2013 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) It’s not fair to say that this was a disappointing year for the Texans. But after realizing the fact that the team was only two games away from bringing home the Lombardi trophy, it’s hard to see the greatness in the aftermath of it all. After another year has come and gone, the Texans will have reinforced or refuted the 2012 hype that surrounded them. As of now, no one can say what will likely be the case. With contracts, trades, the draft and injuries there are too many variables to be accounted for. But despite either scenario playing itself out one thing is certain: it’s great to see real, gritty, hard-nosed, Texas football come to Houston once again.   Follow @jon_coffey
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