The New England Patriots accounted for the Houston Texans 34-16 in Saturday's divisional playoff.
New England were a 16-point favourite in its AFC clash at Gillette Stadium and while it was close throughout, the Patriots pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was uncharacteristically inconsistent against the NFL's top-ranked defense.
Brady threw 28 touchdown passes during the regular season with only two interceptions, but was picked off twice against the Texans. To be fair, both interceptions were off deflections.
Brady finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards with two touchdowns and the two picks.
NO 'O' IN HOUSTON
While the Texans defence did all they could, Houston's offence did not hold up their end of the bargain.
The Patriots, with the NFL's best scoring defense, held the Texans to 285 yards as Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler struggled. Osweiler was 23 of 40 for 198 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
Trailing 34-16 midway through the fourth quarter, the Texans (10-8) were driving for what could have been a spread-beating score. But Osweiler's third pick prevented a touchdown, or even field goal, as he overshot tight end Ryan Griffin and instead found Patriots safety Duron Harmon.
The Patriots (15-2) won in all three phases of the game and got an especially great night from running back Dion Lewis. The fourth-year back from Rutgers helped the Patriots reach an NFL-record sixth straight conference championship game by becoming the first player in postseason history with a rushing touchdown, receiving score and kick-off return for a touchdown.
"I was able to make some plays, but I still have to clean up some things," Lewis told CBS Sports. "It means a lot to be able to help my team win. Hopefully next week we can come out strong."
ONTO NEXT WEEK
The Patriots will play host to either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Kansas City Chiefs in next Sunday's AFC championship game. Either team will have revenge on its mind. The Patriots knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs in the divisional round last season. New England handed the Steelers a 27-16 loss at Heinz Field in week seven.
Whichever team the Patriots get next week, Brady will be looking to bounce back from Saturday's outing. The best Brady is an unhappy Brady and he is probably not pleased with his performance, despite the win.
"It's important to try to go out and have a good week and fix some things," Brady told reporters after the game. "We'll learn from it and try to be better next week."