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Vince Wilfork almost certainly played his last NFL game Saturday night

01.15.17 at 1:07 am ET
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Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Vince Wilfork will likely be retiring from the NFL. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It’s only fitting.

Texans defensive tackle Vince Wilfork walked off the Gillette Stadium field saluting the crowd Saturday night after falling to the Patriots 34-16, ending his season, his second with the Texans after 11 years in New England.

In the past few weeks Wilfork said he would be contemplating retirement at age 35 years old and he all but confirmed it after the game.

“No emotions and I will take my time and think about it,” Wilfork said. “I think I have played my last NFL football game. I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back and see if I really want to retire. We will see. I don’t know how long that will take. I will see, it doesn’t change the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my career.

“I enjoyed 11 great years in New England and two great years in Texas with unbelievable teammates. I couldn’t have any better teammates from both organizations and you talk about the organizations themselves and you talk about top of the class. These are two owners that anyone would love to play for.”

After the game Wilfork embraced dozens of his former teammates and coaches on the field and walked off to a large ovation. Before the game when he was walking on to the field he was shown on the video board, which drew a large ovation from the crowd.

Given Wilfork started his career in New England, it seems fitting he also ends it there.

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Jadeveon Clowney: Texans defense rattled Tom Brady

01.15.17 at 12:54 am ET
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Jadeveon Clowney believes the Texans defense did enough to win. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Jadeveon Clowney believes the Texans defense did enough to win. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — It wasn’t Tom Brady and the Patriots offense’s best performance by any means, but in the end the Patriots beat the Texans, 34-16 to advance to their sixth straight AFC championship game.

Brady finished the game 18-for-38 passing for 287 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The 47 percent completion percentage was the lowest Brady has had in a postseason game over the course of his career.

While Brady was only sacked twice, he was hit eight times. Jadeveon Clowney believes the Texans defense was able to rattle Brady.

“Oh yeah, he was rattled. We rattled him,” he said. “Like I said, we had him right where we wanted him on third down, getting third-and-long. He kept throwing the ball and getting deep catches. … Take them plays away, kick return away, we beat them.”

Brady had a 68.6 QB rating, which was his second-lowest over the last two seasons. How did Clowney think the defense did overall against him?

“What you think? OK, then. I thought we did good,” Clowney said. “Hit him when we wanted to. We were getting to him, missing him up with disguise, moving around. I think they were three-for-something on third down. When you play that good you expect to win games. We just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

Clowney was used in a number of different ways, including lining up over the center and getting to Brady that way. He didn’t want to talk about if the Patriots could be beaten, though.

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “I am talking about this team. Don’t ask me about them.”

Read More: Jadeveon Clowney, Tom Brady,

Mike Petraglia, Ryan Hannable recap historic night as Patriots clinch 6th straight AFC title appearance, Vince Wilfork’s last game

01.15.17 at 12:52 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots, thanks to Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman, made some NFL playoff history Saturday night in what will likely be Vince Wilfork’s final game in the NFL. The Patriots advance to their 6th straight AFC championship with a 34-16 win over the Texans. Mike Petraglia and Ryan Hannable have the details inside Gillette Stadium.

Read More: Dion Lewis, houston texans, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Photos: Patriots beat Texans, advance to 6th straight conference championship game

01.14.17 at 11:55 pm ET
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The Patriots beat the Texans 34-16 Saturday night at Gillette Stadium to advance to an NFL-record sixth straight conference championship game. Check out some photos from the game here.

For a complete breakdown of the game, click here.

Dion Lewis had three touchdowns in Saturday night's win. (David Butler III/USA Today Sports)

Dion Lewis had three touchdowns in Saturday night’s win. (David Butler III/USA Today Sports)

Snap Judgments: Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman lift Patriots to record 6th straight AFC championship

01.14.17 at 11:27 pm ET
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Jan 14, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis (33)returns a kick for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Lewis (33) returns a kick for a touchdown against the Texans during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium Saturday night. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The little men came up big and as a result, the Patriots are headed to uncharted and historic waters.

Lewis notched his first three touchdowns of the season and Julian Edelman caught seven passes for 137 yards as the Patriots fought off a sloppy first half and beat the Texans, 34-16, at a blustery Gillette Stadium.

Lewis became the first player in NFL playoff history with a receiving, rushing and return touchdown in one game. Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill also accomplished the feat in this regular season. Before Lewis and Hill, it had not been done since 1965.

Edelman finished with eight catches on 13 targets while Tom Brady was 18-of-38 for 287 yards and two touchdowns.

The Patriots advance to host either the Chiefs or Steelers next Sunday, Jan. 22, at Gillette Stadium in their sixth straight AFC championship appearance. The six straight championship games is a new record in the Super Bowl era.

The Patriots survived a pair of Brady interceptions and a Lewis lost fumble on a kickoff return to draw within a game of what would be a record ninth Super Bowl appearance.

Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon intercepted Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler in the second half to seal the win.

After the teams exchanged a pair of three-and-outs to start the game, the Patriots took advantage of a big penalty to set up their first score of the game.

On the first play of their second series, Tom Brady lofted a pass down the left sideline for Chris Hogan. The Patriots receiver was tugged on by defensive back A.J. Bouye. The 30-yard penalty set the Patriots up at the Texans 35. Brady went to Hogan on the next play as well, connecting for 22 yards down to the Houston 13. On the next play, Brady hit Lewis in the left flat with a swing pass and Lewis outraced Bernardrick McKinney to the sideline and made a cut and ran parallel to the sideline for the game’s first touchdown. It was also Lewis’ first touchdown of any kind since a receiving touchdown against the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 29, 2015.

The Patriots were on the verge of forcing another 3-and-out on Brock Osweiler when a bizarre and rarely called personal foul gave the Texans new life. After Malcolm Butler and DeAndre Hopkins got into a scuffle at the bottom of the pile, Eric Rowe came over and pulled off a player. Rowe was assessed a 15-yard personal foul extended the Texans’ drive and gave them their first first down of the game.

The Texans then started putting plays together and chewed up over eight minutes. The drive was capped off by a 33-yard Nick Novak field goal, bringing the Texans within four, 7-3.

But on the ensuing kickoff by Novak, Dion Lewis fielded the ball at the Patriots’ 2 near the left sideline and made a beeline up the middle before cutting to his right. Once he got past the first line of coverage, he easily beat Novak and the rest of the until down the right sideline for the first postseason kickoff return for a touchdown in Patriots’ history.

It also marked just the third time in NFL playoff history that a player had a kickoff return and pass reception for a touchdown in a game.

With Gillette Stadium shaking with the anticipation of the expected blowout, the tone of the game suddenly changed.

After the Texans punted to the Patriots, Brady led Michael Floyd with a pass a bit too much and it deflected off Floyd’s hands and into the arms of Bouye. The Texans were not able to do much after being given the ball at the Patriots 27. They settled for a 27-yard Novak to make it 14-6.

On the ensuing kick, Lewis experienced the flip side of the joy he felt in the first quarter. He made it to the 15-yard line before being drilled by Akeem Dent, who recovered for the Texans at the Patriots’ 12. Two plays later, Osweiler rolled out to the right and hit a wide-open C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 10-yard touchdown, cutting the Patriots lead down to one, 14-13.

The Patriots were having major issues on their interior line, with second-year center David Andrews getting beaten twice by Whitney Mercilus on rushes up the middle that resulted in sacks and once by Jadeveon Clowney. After a pressure from Mercilus, Brady dropped back and heaved a pass down the middle for Chris Hogan, who hauled it in for 45 yards. But the drive stalled on a Mercilus sack.

Brady got lucky on the next series, the final one before the half. After Clowney blew past Andrews on the previous play to force third-and-9 at the Patriots 34, Brady dropped back and heaved another pass down the left sideline to Edelman. He brought it in for 48 yards at the Houston 18. But after James Develin and LeGarrette Blount were stuffed at the goal line, the Patriots settled for a 19-yard Gostkowski field goal and a surprisingly slim 17-13 lead at the half.

After going 3-and-out on their first drive of the second half, Brady took over. Pinned back at his own 10, Brady dropped back and took a massive hit in the end zone but not before lobbing a perfect pass to the left sideline to Julian Edelman for 26 yards to the 36. That got Brady going. He was 6-for-7 on the drive for 94 yards, including completions of 26, 14, 7 and 7 to Edelman and 21 yards to Hogan before Brady lofted a perfect pass on a wheel route to James White for a 19-yard touchdown with 9:09 left in the third.

That touchdown put the Patriots up, 24-13, and gave Brady his 18th career postseason game with at least two touchdown passes, extending his NFL record over Brett Favre (15).

Closing Time noteThe Patriots become the fifth franchise in NFL history to reach 30 playoff wins, joining the Steelers, Cowboys, Packers and 49ers.

[For a full box score and stats, click here.]

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Read More: houston texans, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Who will need to step up in Patriots secondary with Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman inactive?

01.14.17 at 6:52 pm ET
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Cyrus Jones is among the Patriots' inactives vs. Houston. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Cyrus Jones is among the Patriots’ inactives vs. Houston. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — The following Patriots players are inactive Saturday night against the Texans: wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, running back DJ Foster, cornerback Cyrus Jones, safety Jordan Richards, quarterback Jacoby Brissett and cornerback Justin Coleman.

There are no real surprises, but the Patriots will play with just four cornerbacks in Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Eric Rowe and undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Rowe and Jones will see more playing time than they have of late, especially Jones who really has climbed the depth chart towards the end of the season.

Historically, teams have targeted the Patriots’ No. 3 cornerback, so it could be a big night for both Rowe and Jones. Also, with Jones out look for Danny Amendola to take over the punt return duties.

The Patriots will have four wide outs with Mitchell inactive as he is dealing with a knee injury, which could mean a big night for Michael Floyd.

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Read More: Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman,

Scene-setting: Patriots look to ice out Texans and make NFL playoff history

01.14.17 at 5:10 pm ET
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One team, one mission. The Patriots begin their quest for a fifth Super Bowl title Saturday night against the Texans. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — The time has finally come for the Patriots to get about their business of making playoff history.

The Patriots will host the Texans in seasonably cold conditions at Gillette Stadium in their seventh straight AFC Divisional home game.

Temperatures are expected in the mid-to-upper 20s for the 8:15 p.m. kick and then drop into the low 20s by the end of the game. There is a slight chance of flurries around 8 p.m. but otherwise, there is little chance of precipitation. There will be a wind out of the south at 7 MPH making it feel like 18-to-20 degrees throughout the game.

The Patriots enter the game having won their previous five AFC divisional round games. Their last loss came in Jan. 2011 when they were stunned by the Jets, 28-21, at Gillette, one of just three home playoff losses in the history of the building.

Overall, the Patriots are 14-3 in home playoff games at Gillette and 18-4 overall at home in Foxboro.

Should the Patriots, who are 17-point favorites in some places, advance, they will become the first team in the Super Bowl era to advance to six straight AFC Championship games. They are tied with the Raiders, who also played in five straight between 1973 and 1977.

A win against the Texans will also give the Patriots 30 playoff win in their franchise history. They will join the Steelers, Cowboys, Packers and 49ers as the only five to have reached that plateau.

The Patriots will get back the services of wide receiver and punt returner Danny Amendola, who injured his ankle against the Rams on Dec. 4 and missed the last four games. Malcolm Mitchell is not expected to play, as he was limited all week in practice with a knee injury.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will not attend the game in Foxboro Saturday night.

The Texans have never won a road playoff game in three tries. One of those losses was to the Patriots in Jan. 2013, when the Patriots beat Matt Schaub, 41-28, at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots were the No. 2 seed that year and lost to the Ravens the following week in the AFC Championship.

Chris Price has a comprehensive scouting report of the game while Ryan Hannable has 20 fun facts to consider while watching the contest.

Read More: Bill Belichick, houston texans, New England Patriots, NFL Playoffs
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