Last year, Dion Lewis was injured during the middle of his breakout season with the New England Patriots. With the season-ending injury, Lewis watched the playoffs from his couch.
This time, getting a chance to play, Lewis didn't waste his chance. He became the first player in postseason history to catch a touchdown pass, rush for a touchdown, and return a kick for a touchdown. His big night sparked the Patriots, whose sloppy play had their faithful fans worried at times. However the Patriots escaped, using a big second half to win 34-16 over the Houston Texans.
Pats jump out to early lead
Despite getting limited offensive snaps, New England jumped out to a 14-3 first quarter lead. This was fueled by an explosive 3-play, 65 yard drive and a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
After three punts to start the game, the Patriots went for the home run ball to start their second drive. Receiver Chris Hogan drew a pass interference penalty, a 30-yard flag. Hogan caught the next pass from Tom Brady, going 22 yards. Dion Lewis caught a quick dump-off pass on the next play, racing untouched for the remaining 13 yards to the end zone. The Patriots looked in prime position to get good field position, as the Texans faced a third and 18. Quarterback Brock Osweiler completed a short pass, but a defensive unsportsmanlike penalty gave the Texans life.
Houston produced a 14-play drive, keyed by some hard runs from Lamar Miller and a few timely conversions from Osweiler. The drive did stall eventually, but the Texans picked up a field goal. However, Lewis picked up a couple of blocks, broke two tackles around a 30-yard line and raced everyone to the end zone for the touchdown for a 14-3 lead that held into the second quarter.
Houston closes fast in the second quarter
Houston knew they needed to force some rare mistakes from the Patriots in order to stay close. They did exactly that in the second quarter, picking off Brady, just his third interception of the year, deep in New England territory. They tacked on three points off of the turnover, a Nick Novak 27-yard field goal.
The Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Texans the ball at the 12. After a run by Miller, Houston reached into their bag of tricks. A fake handoff led to a fake reverse handoff, before Osweiler turned and found a wide open C.J. Fiedorwicz in the end zone for a touchdown, cutting it to a one-point game.
Meanwhile, Houston's defense wreaked havoc on New England's offensive line most of the 2nd quarter, giving Brady almost no time to throw the ball. Jadoveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, and Brian Cushing got after Brady, forcing him into uncharacteristic mistakes.
The Patriots got the ball late in the half and drove down to the Houston 5-yard line. Brady scrambled for four yards on first down. A pass to James Devlin saw the Patriots' goal-line big-man receiver stopped a foot short of the goal line. Stuffed on third down, the Patriots elected to put three points on the board, converting the chip shot field goal. Down 17-13, the Texans headed to the locker rooms down four points, but they had all the momentum.
Pats chip away at mistake-prone Texans in 2nd half
Although the Texans stayed close, they could never come up the tying score. The teams exchanged punts to start the 2nd half. New England then, starting at their 10, pushed to midfield in two plays on completions to Julian Edelman, who finished with 8 catches for 137 yards.
A holding penalty pushed the hometown favorites back ten yards, but Brady delivered a strike to Chris Hogan (5 catches, 95 yards) on the next play for 21 yards. Brady completed two more to Edelman for seven yards apiece, sandwiched around a first down run by Lewis. On 2nd and 10 from the nineteen, the Pats sent James White out of the backfield. The speedster beat a linebacker in man to man coverage, creating enough space to haul in a dime of a pass from Brady, who threw for 287 yards. He was only Patriot not named Dion Lewis to find the end zone on Saturday night.
Then Osweiler, who had been relatively mistake-free to that point, started to look shaky, tossing his first pick on the ensuing Houston drive. The two teams exchanged punts, and then Brady threw another pick, doubling his season total from two to four in one evening. The Texans used the good field position to set up for a 46-yard field goal by Novak, who flushed it through the uprights to make it an eight-point game.
Houston would get their chance to tie the game, following a New England punt. However, Osweiler overthrew DeAndre Hopkins and Logan Ryan made a diving interception, returning it inside the five. From there, Dion Lewis used two plays to punch it in for a 31-16 lead. After forcing a punt, New England used a little trickery, calling two reverse end-around plays within three plays of each other, gaining 28 yards on the two plays. The trick plays keyed a drive into Houston territory culminating in a field goal that made it a three-score game, icing the result. To add insult to injury, Osweiler was intercepted one more time on Houston's final drive.
New England moves on to play either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Kansas City Chiefs in their record 6th straight conference championship game.