HOUSTON - Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski drilled a pair of 53-yard field goals in the fourth quarter to help New England to a 34-31 victory over the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.
The Patriots (9-3) snapped a three-game road losing skid as quarterback Tom Brady passed for 371 yards and a pair of touchdowns. New England amassed 307 yards in the second half and overcame a surprisingly game effort from the Texans (2-10), whose four rushing touchdowns were a franchise best but couldn't halt a losing streak that stretched to 10 games.
Houston running back Ben Tate rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Case Keenum passed for 272 yards. The Texans scored two second-half touchdowns, their most since Keenum took over as the starter at Kansas City in Week 8. Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson had eight receptions for 121 yards and become the second-fasted player in league history to record 900 career receptions.
After mustering only a pair of field goals against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, the Texans were prolific from the onset, capitalizing on excellent field position to grab a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
Houston covered a grand total of 58 yards on its two scoring drives, with Johnson responsible for 42 yards on the opening march capped by an 8-yard Tate touchdown run. Following cornerback Johnathan Joseph's interception of Brady, and a 31-yard return to the Patriots 31, Texans kicker Randy Bullock drilled a 43-yard field goal with 4:10 remaining in the period. The Texans' start was no fluke.
The Patriots managed just one scoring drive prior to intermission, with Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski hooking up for a 23-yard scoring play with 1:25 left in the first. New England totaled 146 yards in the first half, trailed 17-7 at the break, and reversed course once the second half commenced.
Brady passed for 176 yards in the third quarter, engineering a pair of breathless scoring drives that encountered little resistance from the Houston defense. His 9-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen pushed the Patriots in front 21-17 with 8:06 left in the period and, after the Texans reclaimed their lead when Keenum scampered in from the New England 5 at the 2:11 mark, Brady mounted a quick reply.
Running back LeGarrette Blount pounded his way into the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown with 13:09 to play, lifting the Patriots to a 28-24 lead. But Keenum struck back, his 66-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins providing the biggest chunk of a three-play, 80-yard drive capped by Tate's 10-yard touchdown run.
NOTES: After recording only two rushing touchdowns through the first 11 games, the Texans rushed for a pair of touchdowns in the first half, both by RB Ben Tate, and had two more in the second half. ... Patriots QB Tom Brady surpassed 3,000 passing yards for the 11th time in his career, becoming the sixth signal caller in league history to accomplish that feat. ... With his 43-yarder at the 4:10 mark of the first quarter, Texans kicker Randy Bullock converted one field goal in his 10th consecutive game to match Kris Brown for the second-longest streak in franchise history. ... Second-year Patriots FB James Develin recorded his first career touchdown, a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter.