Published : 2013-01-14 20:09
Updated : 2013-01-14 20:09
FOXBOROUGH. (AP) ― Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback in postseason play, throwing for three touchdowns Sunday to beat Houston 41-28 and lift the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game.
Brady got his 17th victory, surpassing his childhood hero, Joe Montana, by throwing for 344 yards. Seldom-used running back Shane Vereen scored three times, twice on receptions.
If Brady can lead the Patriots (13-4) past Baltimore (12-6) in next Sunday’s conference title game, then win the Super Bowl, he’ll equal the 49ers’ Hall of Famer for NFL championships.
The Patriots and Ravens will be meeting for the AFC title for the second straight year. Baltimore, which stunned top-seeded Denver in double overtime Saturday, lost 23-20 at Gillette Stadium last January.
Houston (13-5) performed far better than in a 42-14 loss here last month. But the Texans couldn’t slow down Brady.
The Patriots overcame a 94-yard return by Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff thanks to Brady and Vereen and led 31-13 after three quarters.
Shayne Graham kicked a 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half after a short punt by Zoltan Mesko gave the Texans the ball at their 38-yard line. That cut the lead to 17-13.
But the Patriots (12-4) scored on two of their three series in the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Stevan Ridley and a 5-yard pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd.
The Patriots got little help from running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left with injuries.
Woodhead hurt his thumb after carrying the ball on the Patriots’ first offensive play and Gronkowski went to the locker room with an arm injury midway through the period. Gronkowski was playing his second game since breaking his left forearm.
After the Patriots took a 24-13 lead with Ridley’s touchdown, both teams punted before the Texans started a drive at their 10. They moved to the New England 37 with the help of a 22-yard completion from Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson. But five plays later, Rob Ninkovich jumped and intercepted a pass over the middle intended for James Casey.
That gave the Patriots the ball at their 37 and they needed just six plays to score on Lloyd’s touchdown in the first playoff game of his 10-year career.
Vereen had scored on a 1-yard run with 1:28 left in the first quarter after Graham opened the scoring with a 27-yard field goal.
Falcons edge Seahawks
ATLANTA (AP) ― Matt Bryant pumped his fist and celebrated atop the Falcons logo in the middle of the field. Tony Gonzalez broke down in tears. Matt Ryan relished the thought of not having to answer a familiar question.
The Atlanta Falcons finally showed they could win a playoff game.
And, wow, what a game it was!
After a meltdown in the fourth quarter, the Falcons pulled off a comeback that will long be remembered in championship-starved Atlanta. Ryan completed two long passes and Bryant kicked a 49-yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining, lifting the NFC’s top seed to a stunning 30-28 victory over Russell Wilson and the gutty Seattle Seahawks in a divisional game Sunday.
“Wow!” said Falcons coach Mike Smith, summing up this classic as well as anyone could.