Despite Brady's outstanding performance, completing 25 of 40 passes for 344 yards and three touchdowns, the Patriots' MVP on the offensive side of the ball in Foxboro on Sunday had to be second year running back Shane Vereen. After Danny Woodhead and Rob Gronkowski went down in the first quarter, Vereen stepped up to fill the void. He ran for a one yard touchdown just after a reception, where he danced down the sideline for 25 yards, added an eight yard touchdown catch for the Patriots second score, and a 33 yard over the shoulder touchdown catch in the second half. He ended with seven carries for 41 yards and a touchdown to go along with five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Danieal Manning took the opening kickoff 94 yards all the way down to the New England 12 yard line before being chased down from behind by Devin McCourty. However, the Texans were able to muster only three yards and settled for a field goal.
The kickoff return game was really the only bright spot for a Texans team that failed again to show up in the big game. Their highly touted defense gave up 41 points, recorded only one sack, and forced no turnovers. They gained only 91 yards on the ground averaging a mediocre four yards per carry. Schaub completed two – thirds of his passes for 343 yards but struggled in key situations, including throwing a second half interception to Rob Ninkovich in Patriots territory when the game was still close. The Patriots subsequently took the ball and drove 63 yards for a touchdown to go up 31-13 and essentially put the game out of reach.
Danieal Manning on the other hand, had three huge kickoff returns of 94, 69, and 35 yards but the Texans were unable to capitalize and make plays at key times. On second and seven from the Patriots nine on the game's first drive, a Matt Schaub sure touchdown pass went straight through James Casey's hands forcing the Texan's to settle for an opening drive field goal after Manning's huge return.
Rob Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead were both injured in the first quarter and never returned. Gronkowski landed directly on his surgically repaired left forearm while trying to make a catch down the sidelines. Danny Woodhead broke his thumb on the Patriots' first play from scrimmage. Gronkowski will miss the remainder of the playoffs as he will again need surgery to repair his left forearm. Woodhead could return for the game next week.
Tom Brady recorded his 17th playoff victory as a starting quarterback, passing his childhood hero Joe Montana for first all time.
The Patriots, for the second straight year, will face the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday to play for the AFC Championship. The Ravens were able to pull out a wild 38-35 double overtime victory against Peyton Manning and the heavily favored Broncos.Tags: Baltimore Ravens, Danny Woodhead, Football, kickoff returns, New England, New England Patriots, NFL, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich, Shane Vereen, Texans, Tom Brady