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Halftime analysis: Texans 17, Patriots 7

12.01.13 at 2:20 pm ET
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Texans running back Ben Tate scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half against the Patriots. (AP)

Texans running back Ben Tate scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half against the Patriots. (AP)

Two quarters are in the books in Houston, and the Texans hold a 17-7 lead on the Patriots.

Tom Brady is 11-for-18 for 108 yards with one touchdown and one pick, while Rob Gronkowski has three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Case Keenum is 9-for-15 for 127 yards with one interception. The Patriots really struggled to stop the run — the two first-half rushing touchdowns for Houston matched their total over the previous 11 games. Ben Tate has 12 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns.

Here are a few quick notes:

• Neither team could get anything started on their first drive: A 50-yard return from Keshawn Martin right out of the gate got the Texans off on a good note, but after Houston maneuvered its way to midfield, it couldn’t convert on what appeared to be an easy third-down opportunity and was forced to punt it away. Meanwhile, the Patriots — who went with Brandon Bolden as the lead back in place of Stevan Ridley — also posted a three-and-out.

• The Houston offense had really good field position to start its first three drives — their own 44- and 48-yard line, as well as the New England 31. While the Texans stalled out on the first drive after the nice return from Martin, they were able to make it work on the second series. On that sequence, Keenum found Andre Johnson for a 29-yard pickup to get to the New England 21. That was followed by a 13-yard pass play to Johnson that got the Texans into the red zone. Tate then had an eight-yard burst off right tackle for a touchdown — just the third rushing touchdown of the year for Houston — to make it 7-0 with 8:44 left in the first quarter. On the next possession, Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph undercut a bad throw from Brady on a ball meant for Gronkowski, and took it back in the other direction. The Texans couldn’t reach the end zone, but settled for a 43-yard field goal from Randy Bulluck that made it 10-0.

• The Patriots got a nice boost late in the first when rookie Josh Boyce delivered a 41-yard kick return to get the Patriots near midfield, the longest kick return of the regular season for New England. That got them started on their best offensive series of the first half, a six-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 2:45 and ended with a laser from Brady to Gronkowski, a ball about a foot or so off the turf that the tight end did an excellent job going down and getting. On the play, Brady had all kinds of time, and the tight end hauled it in nicely to make it 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.

• Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins went to the bench midway through the first quarter with what the team described as a hip injury, and was announced as questionable to return. (He went to the locker room briefly.) Boyce appeared to get the bulk of the reps in Thompkins’ place before he returned to the field midway through the second quarter. However, Thompkins then left the field again.

• Biggest defensive play of the first half for the Patriots came midway through the second. With the Texans in New England territory, Keenum was pressured by Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich, and the wobbly ball was picked off by rookie Logan Ryan for his third interception of the season. The Patriots responded with a sustained drive, one that was kept alive with a roughing the passer call on a key third-down that kept the New England offense on the field. However, the Patriots couldn’t cash it in, as Brady was sacked on third down and Stephen Gostkowski missed a 55-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game at 10 with just under five minutes left in the half.

• The Texans did an excellent job answering, posting another touchdown just before the end of the half on a series where they pretty much ran the ball at will against New England. A seven-play drive — which featured four runs — ended with a 20-yard run from Tate to make it 17-7 with just under two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

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