FOXBORO - For the second consecutive year, the Texans' season ended with a road loss in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The Texans lost 41-28 to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, coming up one victory short of hosting the AFC Championship Game in Houston.
"There's no good landing in this business unless you're playing a few weeks from now (in the Super Bowl)," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "Other than that, the landing's a crash. It's tough. I've been doing this a long time. It's very difficult. I'm proud of my team; they played their hearts out tonight. But we had to make a few more plays to move on to next week, so I'm just very disappointed right now."
The Texans scored 10 points in the final 1:15 of the second quarter, including a 55-yard field goal by Shayne Graham on the final play of the first half, to cut a 17-3 to 17-13 at halftime. The Patriots then went on a 21-0 run to start the second half and build a 38-13 lead with 13:07 remaining.
"I think that we had seized the momentum (at halftime), but they made a couple big plays coming out of the half to kind of send it in their favor," Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said. "We had the plays out there to be made. End of the day, when they came out in that second half, we just didn't make more plays than they did, the plays that we needed to make."
Texans running back Arian Foster had 153 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Schaub was 34-of-51 for 363 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Both of his touchdowns came in the game's final 12 minutes.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 25-of-40 for 344 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked just once. Running back Shane Vereen had 165 total yards and three touchdowns, including two receiving. The Patriots were 6-of-13 (46 percent) on third down, while the Texans were 4-of-15 (27 percent).
"The thing that that jumps at me is I think we must have had five third-and-10s in the first half and they had 'em, too, and they made 'em and we didn't," Kubiak said. "They made some great plays. And when you get in this environment and when you get in games like this, you've got to step up and make those type of plays. And I think we had our opportunities. You've got to give 'em credit for what they did. That's what you've gotta match if you're going to find a way to beat 'em."
The game started with a 94-yard kickoff return by Texans safety Danieal Manning to the New England 12-yard line. But the Texans had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Graham after fullback James Casey dropped a touchdown pass on second down and Schaub overthrew Andre Johnson, who was open in the middle of the end zone, on third down.
"We want to go out there and put seven in that situation, and they held us to three," Schaub said. "We can't settle down there, especially against a team like this in their building. We've got to get sevens down there."
The Patriots then stormed out to a 17-3 lead with a one-yard touchdown run by Vereen, a 37-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and an eight-yard touchdown catch by Vereen with 3:38 left in the first half.
Foster ran for a one-yard touchdown with 1:15 remaining in the second quarter to cap a five-play, 47-yard scoring drive. The Texans' defense forced a three-and-out, and Graham made a career-long 55-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter.
That was the closest the Texans would get. Patriots running back Stevan Ridley ran eight yards for a touchdown on the first series of the third quarter. Schaub was picked off by defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich at the New England 31-yard line with 4:14 left in the period. The Patriots converted the turnover into seven points with a five-yard touchdown catch by receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Down 31-13 early in the fourth quarter, the Texans went for it twice on fourth-and-one from deep in their own territory. They converted the first one – barely, after replay review – with a one-yard run by Foster from the Houston 23-yard line. Four plays later, Schaub threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-one. Brady capitalized with a 33-yard scoring pass to Vereen on the next play.
The Texans made it 38-20 less than two minutes later with a 25-yard touchdown catch by rookie wide receiver DeVier Posey. The pass initially was ruled incomplete, but officials overturned the call after a challenge by Kubiak. Posey tipped the ball to himself before catching it on his back in the end zone.
After a three-and-out by the Patriots, the Texans drove 79 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown. Foster caught a one-yard scoring pass from Schaub on fourth-and-goal, and Johnson made a leaping catch on the two-point conversion to make it 38-28 with 5:11 remaining. The Patriots recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran 3:57 off the clock, ending up with a 38-yard field goal with 1:14 remaining for the game's final score.
Tight end Owen Daniels had nine catches for 81 yards. Johnson totaled eight for 95. Defensive end J.J. Watt had four tackles and half a sack, which he split with outside linebacker Brooks Reed.
"We didn't play a good game and they played a very good game, and they're moving on and we're not," Watt said. "So congrats to them. Losing, I can't stand it. I can't stand any aspect of it. The taste in your mouth is terrible. We lost, we're not going home and we're not going on. Congratulations to them. They deserve all the credit.*"