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Sports

January 14, 2013

Patriots beat Texans to advance to AFC title game

(Continued)

It was Brady’s 41st postseason TD pass, behind only Brett Favre (44) and, you guessed it, Montana (45).

“I hope I am around for a few more years,” the 35-year-old Brady said. “I love playing, I love competing ...”

The boost from Vereen offset the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski (arm) and RB Danny Woodhead (thumb) in the first quarter.

“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.”

New England’s defense helped put away the Texans. Rob Ninkovich’s leaping third-quarter interception stopped a drive, and six plays later, Brady hit Brandon Lloyd for a 6-yard score.

Although the Texans got two fourth-quarter TDs on passes by Matt Schaub, their season ended with four defeats in their last six games. That slump cost the AFC South champions the top seed in the playoffs, forcing a trip to New England after they beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round.

The Texans couldn’t measure up.

Unlike their 42-14 loss here a month ago, the Texans didn’t fold early. J.J. Watt, their dominating defensive end, bothered Brady, and when they fell behind 17-3, they had the fortitude to climb back.

Arian Foster did all the work after Danieal Manning’s second big kickoff return, this one a 35-yarder that had 15 yards tacked on when kicker Stephen Gostkowski brought down Manning with a horse-collar tackle. The Pro Bowl runner covered all 47 yards on a five-play drive and his 1-yard run — he barely squeezed into the end zone — made it 17-10.

Houston forced a three-and-out, and a short punt gave the Texans another shot just before halftime. They got close enough for Shayne Graham to kick a 55-yard field goal as the half ended.

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