Houston kept the game close early Saturday night and capitalized on unusual New England turnover, including an interception and fumbled kick return. The Texans erased a 14-3 deficit and headed into halftime down 17-13 after Brock Osweiler threw a touchdown to C.J. Fiedorowicz.
But the Patriots, who drubbed the Texans 27-0 back in September, came out with a renewed sense of purpose. Tom Brady capped a 90-yard drive with a touchdown, but the Texans still showed some fight.
A field goal by Nick Novak brought the Texans back within striking distance, 24-16. After the Texans defense — the best in the NFL — forced a New England punt, the Texans had the chance to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Then, the dagger came. Osweiler, who has struggled with accuracy all season (and somehow thinks all his receivers are seven feet tall) threw an errant ball above the head of DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins got a hand on the ball, only to watch it fall into the waiting arms of Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan. Two plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone again.
The only other excitement of the game came from a meaningless Patriots field goal late in the 4th quarter. Stephen Gostowski's kick extended the Patriots lead to 18, covering the insane 16.5-point spread Las Vegas had set for the game.
There were little silver linings for the Texans, who won the weak AFC South and defeated the Derek Carr-less Oakland Raiders in the first round of the playoffs last week.
Despite sacking Tom Brady three times and intercepting him twice, the Texans surrendered 34 points. Brock Osweiler finished 23-40 with one touchdown and three picks. His one perfectly thrown ball, a bomb into the end zone, tumbled through receiver Will Fuller's arms. As has been the case all season, the Texans struggled to put drives together.
Our own Sean Pendergast will deliver his full analysis of the game on Sunday.