The New England Patriots are one game away from reaching the Super Bowl after overpowering and defeating the Houston Texans 41-28 on Sunday behind Tom Brady’s big performance.
Brady threw for three touchdowns and 344 yards, which earned him his 17th postseason win.
“I love playing, I love competing, I love being a part of this organization,” Brady said. “I think I’ve just been fortunate to play on some great teams over the years. I never take it for granted.”
Brady is looking to carry over his stellar performance in next week’s AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, who shocked the top-seeded Denver Broncos in double overtime Saturday 38-35. The Ravens beat the Patriots in week 3, 31-30 in Baltimore.
“I think the two best teams are in the final,” Brady said. “Baltimore certainly deserves to be here and so do we.”
The biggest surprise for the Patriots came from third-string running back Shane Vereen, who scored three times. Vereen became the third player in postseason history to have two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score in the same game, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“I don’t come into the game knowing how much anyone is going to play,” Vereen said. “I come into the game ready to go, and if my number is called, I do my best for the team.”
Vereen’s spark provided a lift to an injured offense that was missing tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Danny Woodhead. Gronkowski went out in the first quarter after reinjuring his left arm, and Woodhead exited the game during first quarter with a thumb injury.
ESPN reported that Gronkowski broke his arm again and will miss the rest of the postseason. Pro Football Talk reported that he will need season-ending surgery on his arm.
“Shane had a great game, just a huge growing up moment for him, very special,” Brady said. “There were a lot of guys who made a lot of plays.”
Wes Walker also stepped up big for the Patriots and made six receptions in the first half for 120 yards. He finished the game with eight receptions for 131 yards.
Despite the Texans scoring on two fourth-quarter passes by Matt Schaub, they were unable to mount the necessary comeback needed to win.
“Whenever the season ends, no matter when, it’s really hard,” tight end Owen Daniels said. “The further along you get, the harder it is to take. It’s one we wanted to win really bad. It’s tough to swallow … but one team gets to have a smile on their face at the end of the season, and it’s not us this year.”
Brady will enter next week’s AFC Championship game looking to propel the Patriots to the Super Bowl and earn his fourth ring. If he is successful in winning out, he will tie his childhood hero Joe Montana with four Super Bowl rings.