“Coffee is for closers.”
That line comes from the film “Glengarry, Glen Ross” when a struggling salesman reaches for the office coffee pot his supervisor tells him basically that only people who do their jobs have time for coffee.
“Do your job.” That’s a Bill Belichick mantra that every Patriots fan is or should be familiar with. He has always felt if the players do their job good things happen will happen for the team.
The New England Patriots all deserve a cup of coffee.
Today the big difference between the Patriots and next weeks opponents the Ravens and the four other AFC teams who have been eliminated is that those two teams are closers.
Next week either New England or Baltimore will be a closer and the other will go home. On a seasonably warm winter afternoon in Foxboro the New England Patriots earned a chance to play for their 9th AFC Championship, should they beat the Baltimore Ravens they will play in the franchises 8th Super Bowl. A huge reason to be a closer.
They got this far because they were able to close out the Houston Texans, 41-28 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the final score indicated.
Led by 2nd year running backs Shane Vereen, who had 124 yards from scrimmage (83 receiving on 5 catches and 41 rushing on 7 carries) and 3 TD’s (2 receiving, 1 rushing) and Stevan Ridley, who had 82 yards and a TD on 15 carries and caught 1 pass for 13 yards they have advanced to host the AFC Championship game.
The solid play of Vereen and Ridley, made up for missing RB Woodhead, who injured his thumb early and TE Rob Gronkowski, who re-injured his broken arm along with solid defense were the keys to this team win.
The defense for the most part was solid as they kept Houston RB Arian Foster under 100 rushing yards and WR Andre Johnson under 100 receiving yards. Foster had 90 yards on 22 carries and 40 of those came on back-to-back runs that led to a second quarter Texans touchdown. He also added 63 receiving yards on 7 catches and had two TD’s one in the air, one on the ground. Johnson finished with 8 catches for 95 yards.
New England’s secondary led the way in tackles as CB Aqib Talib and S Steve Gregory each had ten tackles and S Devin McCourty and LB Jerod Mayo added 7 a piece to led the team defensively.
The biggest play in the game for the Patriots defensively actually came on special teams on the opening kickoff when McCourty ran down Danieal Manning from behind and saved a touchdown. The Patriots defense then held on three plays inside the red zone and forced Houston to field goal. That one play set the tone for the game.
After that it was just a matter of time before the Patriots started clicking taking a 3-0 deficit and turning it into a 17-3 lead which would be whittled down to 17-13 at the half.
A string third quarter saw the Patriots expand their lead to 31-13 and then 38-13 early in the fourth quarter after TD’s by Ridley, Vereen and WR Brandon Lloyd.
The Texans crawled back in when the Patriots defense softened up a bit to kill some clock and got to within 38-28 before a Stephen Gostkowski field goal sealed the win and closed out the Texans.
I’m looking forward to next week’s AFC title game rematch against Baltimore. After all it is Ray Lewis’ last ride and it’d be pretty sweet to see the end of the line come in Gillette Stadium.
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Turning Point(s) of the Game
S Devin McCourty’s amazing run down of Houston KR Danieal Manning on the games opening kickoff to save a TD. Combine that with the Patriots defense holding the Texans to a field goal and that set the tone for the game.
Offensive Player(s) of the Game
RB Shane Vereen had 124 yards from scrimmage. 83 yards receiving on 5 catches and 41 yards rushing on 7 carries. He had 3 TD’s, 1 on the ground and two off of Tom Brady passes.
Defensive Player(s) of the Game
DE Rob Ninkovich had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 INT and 2 passes defensed.
Starters for the Patriots were:
- LT Solder
- LG Mankins
- C Wendell
- RG Connolly
- RT Vollmer
- TE Gronkowski
- TE Hernandez
- WR Welker
- WR Lloyd
- QB Brady
- RB Woodhead
- DE Ninkovich
- DT Deaderick
- DT Wilfork
- DE Jones
- LB Mayo
- LB Spikes
- LB Hightower
- LCB Talib
- RCB Dennard
- S Gregory
- S McCourty
Inactives for the Game:
1. WR Kamar Aiken
2. CB Derrick Martin
3. DB Malcolm Williams
4. G Nick McDonald
5. G Markus Zusevics
6. TE Daniel Fells
7. DE Jake Bequette
1. CB Roc Carmichael
2. CB Stanford Routt
3. LB Cameron Collins
4. G Antoine Caldwell
5. T Andrew Gardner
6. G Cody White
7. NT Terrell McClain
The spread (Patriots minus 9) WAS covered. The over/under (47.5) WAS COVERED. I GAVE the points (Texans) and took the OVER. I am now 4-13 vs. the spread and 11 of 17 calling the under/over.
Patriots lead the overall series vs. the Texans, 4-1 including 1-0 in the post season.
This is the Patriot 20th playoff season, it was the 30th playoff game of the Kraft Era (20-10) and the team is now 24-16 all-time in the post season.
They are now 10-6 in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Patriots now are 10-2 at Gillette Stadium in the post season, 14-3 overall as the home team.
When the Patriots have a positive turnover ratio in a playoff game they are 18-1 on Sunday they were PLUS 1.
Bill Belichick is now 205-108 including post season.
Belichick’s 205 wins are good for a tie for 6th all-time with Marty Schottenheimer who coached the Browns, Chiefs, Redskins and Chargers.
He is 18-7 in the playoffs, 17-6 as head coach of the Patriots in the post season.
His 18 playoff wins are the third most all-time behind only Don Shula (19) and Tom Landry (20).
Belichick is 4-1 vs. the Texans in his career, 1-0 in the post season.
Tom Brady is 17-6 in the playoffs and has an overall record of 153-45.
His 17 playoff wins are the most all-time for any quarterback.
Brady is 3rd all-time in postseason TD passes with 41. Brett Favre is 2nd with 44 and Joe Montana leads with 45.
Brady holds the NFL record with 524 postseason completions.
Brady holds the franchise lead for most playoff games as a Patriot (23).
WR Wes Welker now has catches in 118 consecutive games including playoffs, 101 as a Patriot. The last time Welker did not have a catch in a game was 12/24/05 as a Dolphin.
Welker is the all-time franchise leader with 61 playoff receptions.
WR Brandon Lloyd (10 yrs), CB Aqib Talib (5), DE Trevor Scott (5) and G Donald Thomas (5) all played in their first NFL playoff game.
Houston finishes the season at 13-5 including the playoffs. They were 12-4 in the regular season and won the AFC South and were the #3 seed in the AFC. They went 1-1 in the playoffs and lost in the Division Round for the second consecutive season.
The Texans are now 2-2 all-time in the post season.
This was the first post season game in franchise history in which the Texans did not outrush their opponent.
Houston is 1-4 all-time vs. New England and is 0-3 in Gillette Stadium.
In the Texans three losses at Gillette they’ve allowed at least 40 points in each game.
The Texans are 12-13 all-time against the AFC East including the post season.
Houston head coach Gary Kubiak is 2-2 in the post season and has an overall record of 61-55.
Kubiak is 1-3 in his career vs. New England including post season.
Houston QB Matt Schaub is now 45-39 all-time including 1-1 in the post season.
RB Arian Foster had his streak of post season 100+ yard rushing games snapped at 3 when he was held to 90 yards.
It was the second time this season that the Patriots held Foster to less than 100 yards rushing.
WR Andre Johnson has caught at least 1 pass in 107 consecutive games including playoffs.
Tony Corrente was the game referee. The temp at kickoff was 51, cloudy and mild.
Attendance – 68,756 at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro MA. It was the 204th consecutive shutout at a Patriots home game.
Post Game Interviews
The Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro MA on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on CBS.
Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveMichaelsII
photo credit: getty images