FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady threw touchdown passes on his first two possessions and the New England Patriots led the Houston Texans 14-0 after the first quarter on Monday night.
It was a stunning start as the Texans (11-1) entered with the NFL’s best record and a 6-0 mark on the road. But the Patriots (9-3) haven’t lost at home in December since 2002 and capitalized on Houston mistakes and poor coverage.
The Texans hurt themselves with an illegal formation penalty that wiped out Arian Foster’s 11-yard run on the first offensive play of the game, a defensive holding penalty against Brandon Harris that gave the Patriots a first down at the Houston 29 and an interception by Devin McCourty on Matt Schaub’s pass into the end zone.
The Patriots scored on their first possession after a strong 31-yard punt return by Wes Welker, replacing the injured Julian Edelman, set them up at their 44-yard line for their first series.
Stevan Ridley ran for 18 yards on the first three plays for a first down at the Houston 38. After an incompletion, Harris was called for defensive holding on third-and-6, giving the Patriots a first down.
Brady then completed a 25-yard pass to Welker, his 107th consecutive game with a reception.
And two plays later, Brady found Aaron Hernandez for a 7-yard scoring pass on the left side.
Schaub then led the Texans to a second-and-8 on the Patriots 21. But when he tried to throw down the middle into double coverage, McCourty picked the ball off and returned it 19 yards.
That gave Brady the ball at his 18 but he covered the next 82 yards in just 2 minutes, 41 seconds. After an incompletion and a run for no yards by Ridley, Brady completed four consecutive passes. On the last one, Brandon Lloyd sprinted away from cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who was returning after missing two games with a hamstring injury, and was wide open as he caught a 37-yard touchdown pass cutting from the right side to the left.
Brady finished the quarter with six completions in eight attempts for 114 yards and threw a scoring pass for the 45th straight game, the third-longest streak of all-time.
The game matched a team with five Super Bowl appearances and three championships in the past 11 seasons against one that reached the playoffs last season for the first time since it began play in 2002.
There are plenty of similarities between the teams.
Both are on six-game winning streaks and are the highest-scoring teams in the NFL with the Patriots averaging 35.8 points per game and the Texans 29.3.
The Patriots have clinched the AFC East, while the Texans have locked up a playoff berth in the AFC South but have two games left with the Indianapolis Colts (9-4), who are second in the division.
But for one quarter, at least, there was no comparison between two of the AFC’s top teams.
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