New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with teammate Ryan Mallett (15) after throwing a touchdown pass to running back Shane Vereen (34) during the fourth quarter of the AFC divisional round playoff game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. (PHOTO: US PRESSWIRE)
FOXBORO, MA - After putting the New England Patriots back in a very familiar position, Tom Brady now finds himself in an unprecedented place in the record books.
The star quarterback threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns to lead New England to its second straight trip to the AFC Championship Game, with the defending conference champions advancing with a 41-28 triumph over the Houston Texans in Sunday's Divisional Playoff from Gillette Stadium.
Brady completed 25-of-40 passes without an interception en route to his 17th career postseason victory as a starting signal-caller, moving him past Hall of Famer Joe Montana and into sole possession of first place on the NFL's all- time list in that category.
Shane Vereen hauled in two of Brady's scoring strikes and accumulated 83 yards on five catches, while also adding a rushing touchdown to help get the Patriots back in the AFC title game for the seventh time overall under the combination of Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
New England will host Baltimore, a 38-35 double-overtime winner over top- seeded Denver in Saturday's other Divisional bout, next Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 conference championship. The Patriots bested the Ravens in a 23-20 thriller in last year's game.
The Patriots rolled up 457 total yards on Houston's highly regarded defense despite playing most of the way without Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski, who exited the contest on New England's second offensive series with a reported re-fracture of his surgically repaired left forearm, an injury that sidelined him for five weeks during the regular season.
Along with Vereen, Wes Welker helped offset Gronkowski's absence by amassing 131 yards on eight receptions.
Matt Schaub finished with 343 yards and two touchdowns with one interception on 34-of-51 passing for the Texans, who saw their season end in the Divisional Round for a second consecutive year. Arian Foster compiled 153 yards from scrimmage and scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown in the loss, Houston's fourth in six outings since beginning the season 11-1.
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