Quick. Name the only team that can struggle through the first half, commit three turnovers, make mental mistakes and never fully get their offense going the way they are accustomed to, yet still dominate their opponent and win in blowout fashion?
If you answered the New England Patriots, you'd be correct.
After stumbling and bumbling through an undisciplined first half of football, the Patriots turned on the after burners and blew past the outmatched Houston Texans, 34-16, Saturday night.
Here are some initial thoughts after the divisional round victory:
A Historic Victory- The win is a historic one for the Pats, as they will now head to their record sixth straight AFC Title game. Heading into the match up, the Pats had been tied with the Oakland Raiders of the mid-70's for the record with five consecutive title game trips.
History In The Debut- In his postseason debut, Patriots running back didn't do much, except make league history. The dual threat back became the first player in league history to record a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in a postseason game. Lewis caught a short pass then scampered 13 yards past the Texans defense to open the scoring up in the first quarter. A few minutes later, Lewis secured a Houston kickoff at the New England 2-yard line and proceeded to come all the way across the field and 98 yards down it, blowing by a number of would-be tacklers, to take the ball to the house. Lewis capped off his historic day with a 1-yard touchdown run late in the third, to help solidify a mounting lead. Aside from a couple of times where he put the ball on the ground, including one fumble that led to Houston's only touchdown of the day, Lewis was as close to perfect as one could be. The back finished the day with the three scores and 188 all-purpose yards.
Now Better Than 27- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady can now say that he has more playoff wins than 27 other NFL franchises do. Not bad, at all.
No Takeoff For The Brocketship- Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler proved to be the big-time bust everybody already knew he was, heading into the game. On the day, Osweiler completed 23 of his 40 pass attempts for 198 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Overall, the well-paid quarterback threw about three good passes in the game and two of them were dropped by his receivers. Of course, that could be chalked up to the fact that his receivers aren't used to getting good passes thrown to them. To take his performance a step further, Osweiler completed five more passes than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but totaled 89 yards less than the future Hall-of-Famer.
Stellar Performance- Although Osweiler was terrible and the Texans are in no way a strong offense, the Patriot defense put together a stellar performance throughout the game. New England held the lackluster Texans offense to a measly 285 yards, 14 first downs and just 16 points in the victory. They also recorded three interceptions and held Houston to a ridiculously low 19 percent on third down, allowing them to convert on just three of 16 attempts. All in all, with the short fields from the early turnovers brought into the picture, the Pats defense was downright dominant.
One Too Many- Brady most certainly took at least one too many hits over the course of the game. The offensive line didn't have their best game, which led to putting Brady in some compromising positions. All in all, however, the Pats quarterback was able to get through the game relatively unscathed. The line will have to be better and do a better job of keeping Brady upright as the season moves on.
Atop The Record Books- New England receiver Julian Edelman also had a historic night, as he passed his former teammate Wes Welker for most postseason receptions in franchise history. He also logged his third career 100-yard postseason game, as he finished the day with a team-high eight catches for 137 yards.
Some Good, Some Bad- Tom Brady had some good moments and some bad moments Saturday. There were times where the future-Hall-of-Famer looked unstoppable, firing passes to Edelman and Chris Hogan down the field with relative ease. He did equal his regular season interception total, however, as he was picked off twice. While the first pick is partly on receiver Michael Floyd, who had the ball deflect off his hands and into the defenders arms, the second pick was caused by Brady's failure to see the linebacker sitting underneath the coverage. Overall, Brady took a whole bunch of hits, but played well, completing 18 of 38 passes to seen different receivers for 287 yards and two scores.
Big Day For Rutgers- As Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his post game presser, it was, in fact, a big day for Rutgers. All three members of the New England secondary that attended the New Jersey University, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, picked off Osweiler.
Ryan Rolls- While Lewis was the star of the game offensively for the Pats, cornerback Logan Ryan was probably their best defensive player in the game. Ryan finished the game second on the team with seven total tackles, including a tackle for a loss and a sack. He also had the aforementioned interception, which included a 23 yard return, a quarterback hit and three passes defensed.
All in all, things weren't great for the Pats throughout the night. They never truly got it going offensively and had some mental and physical breakdowns. They did, however, still score 34 points and control the game defensively. They are now on their way to their sixth consecutive AFC Championship game and Belichick has plenty of things to harp on, as he gets his team ready to face whichever team wins Sunday night's Pittsburgh/Kansas City game. Again, not many teams can struggle through a game like that and still cruise to a victory in which they cover a spread of more than two scores.