PLAY OF THE GAME
Situation: Trailing, 24-13, with 4:30 left in the third quarter, the Texans were aiming to make it a game with a third and 8 at the Patriots’ 37-yard line on a nine-play drive that included a third-and-16 conversion.
What happened: The Patriots were in their dime package with Tavon Wilson (27) on the field and Jerod Mayo (51) the lone linebacker. Texans H-back James Casey (86) went in motion and Mayo made an audible against the shotgun empty (no backs) look. After some moving around, Justin Francis (94) and Trevor Scott (99) were the ends, and Kyle Love (74) and Rob Ninkovich (50) were the tackles. At the snap, Mayo rushed around the left tackle and Wilson came on a delayed blitz after slightly re-routing Casey. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (8) thought the middle would be vacated, but Ninkovich replaced Mayo as the middle linebacker after faking a pass rush. Schaub either didn’t see Ninkovich entirely, or just made a poor throw as Ninkovich made a leaping interception to end the drive, and set up a touchdown for the Patriots that made it 31-13.
ON HIS GAME
Shane Vereen, running back
He did a little bit of everything, averaging 5.9 yards per rush (with a touchdown), caught five passes for 83 yards (and two touchdowns), deftly picked up four blitzes, and broke three tackles for 42 yards. Terrific coming-of-age game.
OFF THEIR GAME
Kickoff coverage unit
This group had a hand in three kickoffs that were returned 94, 35 (plus a 15-yard penalty), and 69 yards to almost singlehandedly keep the Texans in the game.
GREG A. BEDARD