Cloudy
50°
Cloudy
Hi 54° | Lo 45°
New England Patriots

Patriots’ Vereen comes of age in playoff victory

  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Tom Brady of the New England Patriots looks to make a pass during their 41-28 over the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Tom Brady of the New England Patriots looks to make a pass during their 41-28 over the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Josh Gragg, right, throws the ball to a friend while tailgating outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Josh Gragg, right, throws the ball to a friend while tailgating outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Patriots running back, Shane Vereen, dives forward to pick up more yards during New England's 41-28 win against the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Patriots running back, Shane Vereen, dives forward to pick up more yards during New England's 41-28 win against the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, talks to a line during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, talks to a line during the game against the Houston Texans.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Vince Wilfork points to the crowd at Gillette Stadium as he heads to the sidelines. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Vince Wilfork points to the crowd at Gillette Stadium as he heads to the sidelines. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Players met in the middle of the field following the game on Sunday. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Players met in the middle of the field following the game on Sunday. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • A man watches an instant replay in the stands during the fourth quarter of the Patriots 41-28 win over Houston.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    A man watches an instant replay in the stands during the fourth quarter of the Patriots 41-28 win over Houston.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Trevor Scott of the New England Patriots nearly sacks Houston quarterback, Matt Schaub stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Trevor Scott of the New England Patriots nearly sacks Houston quarterback, Matt Schaub stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Houston Texans players head to the locker room during halftime at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Houston Texans players head to the locker room during halftime at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Devin McCourty, left, congratulates New England teammate Steve Gregory on a tackle during the Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Devin McCourty, left, congratulates New England teammate Steve Gregory on a tackle during the Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pete Picciandra, of Borne, Massachusetts, poses for a portrait while tailgating with friend and family outside Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 on to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Pete Picciandra, of Borne, Massachusetts, poses for a portrait while tailgating with friend and family outside Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 on to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Rob Ninkovich of the New England Patriots clutches the ball through a tackle after intercepting a pass intended for Houston Texan James Casey during the playoff game on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots defeated Houston 41-28 advancing to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Rob Ninkovich of the New England Patriots clutches the ball through a tackle after intercepting a pass intended for Houston Texan James Casey during the playoff game on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots defeated Houston 41-28 advancing to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Fans hold a giant Tom Brady head in the stands during the New England Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Fans hold a giant Tom Brady head in the stands during the New England Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Josh Gragg, of Derry, right, throws the ball to a friend while Casey Stingel, left, watches television in the back of his truck outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The group of friends from around Manchester, Londonderry and Derry, New Hampshire tailgated before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Josh Gragg, of Derry, right, throws the ball to a friend while Casey Stingel, left, watches television in the back of his truck outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The group of friends from around Manchester, Londonderry and Derry, New Hampshire tailgated before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Tom Brady of the New England Patriots looks to make a pass during their 41-28 over the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Josh Gragg, right, throws the ball to a friend while tailgating outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Patriots running back, Shane Vereen, dives forward to pick up more yards during New England's 41-28 win against the Houston Texans in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, talks to a line during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England players warm up on the sidelines during the game against the Houston Texans.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Vince Wilfork points to the crowd at Gillette Stadium as he heads to the sidelines. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Players met in the middle of the field following the game on Sunday. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • A man watches an instant replay in the stands during the fourth quarter of the Patriots 41-28 win over Houston.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Trevor Scott of the New England Patriots nearly sacks Houston quarterback, Matt Schaub stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Chandler Jones New England Patriots turns to the stands to pump up the crowd during their 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Houston Texans players head to the locker room during halftime at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England wide receiver, Brandon Lloyd, celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Devin McCourty, left, congratulates New England teammate Steve Gregory on a tackle during the Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Pete Picciandra, of Borne, Massachusetts, poses for a portrait while tailgating with friend and family outside Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans 41-28 on to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Tom Brady heads to the locker room following New England's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013 advancing the Patriots to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Rob Ninkovich of the New England Patriots clutches the ball through a tackle after intercepting a pass intended for Houston Texan James Casey during the playoff game on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots defeated Houston 41-28 advancing to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England running back, Shane Vereen, runs the ball in for a touchdown during the Patriot's 41-28 win over the Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Fans hold a giant Tom Brady head in the stands during the New England Patriots 41-28 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday, January 13, 2013. The Patriots advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • New England Patriots fans watch fireworks explode following the National Anthem and before the start of Sunday's second-round playoff game against the Houston Texans. The Patriots went on to defeat Houston 41-28 and advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Josh Gragg, of Derry, right, throws the ball to a friend while Casey Stingel, left, watches television in the back of his truck outside Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The group of friends from around Manchester, Londonderry and Derry, New Hampshire tailgated before the start of New England's game against Houston. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28 in the second-round of the playoffs to advance to the AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens next weekend back at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Shane Vereen didn’t have a say the last time the New England Patriots went on a playoff scoring spree at Gillette Stadium. At this point in the season last year, New England was pounding the Denver Broncos defense to the tune of a 45-10 shellacking, and Vereen, the highly touted rookie out of California, was inactive, a side note to the action instead of a part of it.

One year later, Vereen wasn’t just part of the attack. He was the heart of it, scoring three

touchdowns while filling a major personnel void and lifting the Patriots to a 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

“I’ve grown as a player in a lot of ways. It’s hard just to pick one,” he said. “Last year, I wasn’t able to contribute, this year, I am. I was just happy that I was able to contribute to the team.”

Vereen ran seven times for 41 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 83 yards and two scores – and a lot of it may not have happened if not for an injury to Danny Woodhead on the Patriots’ very first drive.

When Woodhead left the field with a thumb injury, New England needed someone to replace his quickness and receiving skills out of the backfield. The call went to Vereen. And he was ready.

“Coming into the game, we never really know how much one person is going to play,” he said. “I come into the game ready to go and if my number is called, I do my best for the team.”

His best was more than enough. Vereen gave the team a spark through the air and on the ground, taking a screen 25 yards on the third drive to set up a 1-yard touchdown run, going 22 yards on a run the next series to set up a field goal, and catching an 8-yard scoring pass from Tom Brady on the next drive to put New England up 17-3.

Houston battled back to within four points, but after New England began to pull away again, Vereen provided the crushing blow. The Patriots forced a turnover on downs with 13:13 remaining in the game, and Brady hit the running back in stride down the left sideline for a 33-yard touchdown on the very next play to make it 38-13.

“Shane had a great game,” Brady said. “Really, just a huge growing up moment for him, so very special.”

With another game to be played, Vereen has another chance to add to his impressive postseason start, but the second-year player made sure to show the same workmanlike attitude he demonstrated after the first drive yesterday.

“I was just happy we were able to win tonight,” he said. “That’s always the main goal, and that’s where my focus was tonight.”

Bad news – again

The mood yesterday mimicked the one from the last playoff game at Gillette Stadium. An inspiring Patriots win, met with the joy of advancing – as well as the sobering realization that Rob Gronkowski will no longer be part of the journey.

The Patriots’ star tight end’s return from a broken left forearm was short-lived, as he landed awkwardly on a pass down the right sideline on New England’s second drive and re-injured the arm. It was Gronkowski’s second game back and his final one, as according to multiple sources he’ll need season-ending surgery to repair the injury.

The news made the postgame atmosphere feel like last year’s AFC championship game, when New England’s win was dampened by Gronkowski’s high ankle sprain, and some players were surprised to hear the tight end would be out again.

“We don’t have him?” defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. “I’m sorry, I have no clue on that and I’m being dead serious.”

The injury forced New England to adjust quickly from a strategy that Brady said heavily involved the All-Pro.

“We had a whole plan built for him and (Danny Woodhead),” he said. “We run the first series of the game and all those plans change.”

Quick returns

Two weeks ago, Rob Ninkovich was in serious pain, barely able to get off the field after an injury suffered in the season finale against Miami.

Last night, Ninkovich was in the middle of the action once again, as the veteran linebacker recorded a crucial interception to help stave off a Houston rally and lift New England to the win.

“It was just a great defensive play for us,” Ninkovich said. “I’m happy that it was able to turn the game around a little bit.”

The Patriots were hanging on to a 24-13 lead late in the third but Houston was driving, getting to the New England 38 when Matt Schaub dropped back on 3rd-and-8. The Texans quarterback threw the ball right up the seam, not seeing Ninkovich standing right there, and the linebacker made the interception to pave the way for a drive that resulted in a Brandon Lloyd touchdown.

It was a surprising return to the spotlight for Ninkovich, who had fans concerned when he visibly struggled to get to the sideline a week ago after suffering a hip injury.

“I feel blessed to be able to be on the field,” said the linebacker, who also recovered an onside kick to ice the game. “I’ve been in that situation a bunch in my career. I’ve had a couple of knee injuries that, when it happens, it could be your career.”

Ninkovich, who said he felt “pretty good” on the field yesterday, also said he’s suffered that hip injury before, and that that helped him through it this time around.

“It’s happened to me a few times, unfortunately,” he said. “I was a little bit better taking it, just saying ‘All right, calm down, don’t get too upset. You don’t know what it is yet.’ I was happy that it wasn’t anything that would affect me going forward in the playoffs.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.