Originally written January 14, 2013 on The Nosebleeds:
On Sunday, the Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 to advance to the AFC Championship game for the seventh time since 2001.  Running back Shane Vereen had himself a career day after Danny Woodhead went down with an injury on the opening drive, racking up 41 yards and a rushing touchdown, as well as 83 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Unfortunately for the Pats, tight end Rob Gronkowski re-injured his left forearm and is out for the remainder of the playoffs which could be a huge blow to the offense, although they seemed to do just fine without him in this game.  Gronk is scheduled to have surgery on the arm today. The defense was able to keep Houston’s weapons in check for most of the day, keeping Arian Foster under 100 yards rushing and Andre Johnson under 100 yards receiving while the offensive line kept J.J. Watt to just half a sack and no pass deflections.  The New England pass rush only managed to rack up one sack on Matt Schaub for the day, but they brought a noticeable amount of pressure in the second half and flushed him out of the pocket multiple times, ultimately leading to Rob Ninkovich’s 3rd quarter interception to stop Houston from potentially cutting the lead down to a field goal. So apart from the miserable kickoff coverage, Patriots fans should be feeling pretty good about the way the Pats played on Sunday.  The offense was moving the ball the way everyone expected them to and the defense executed their signature bend-but-don’t-break strategy well enough to limit one of the NFL’s most potent offenses to 28 points, with 15 of them coming in the 4th quarter when the game was pretty much already decided. Next up will be the beloved Baltimore Ravens, the team that beat the Pats by a single point by scoring three points on a missed field goal (yeah, I said it).  I’ll have more tomorrow on how these two teams will match up when real referees are calling the game. PS – Keeping being you, Brandon Spikes.
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