The Latest: Lewis leads Pats over Texans 34-16 in playoffs
The Latest on the NFL’s divisional playoff games Saturday (all times Eastern):
Dion Lewis became the first player in NFL postseason history to score touchdowns by rushing, receiving and a kickoff return, leading New England to a 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans and pushing Tom Brady and the Patriots within two more wins of another title.
The Patriots (15-2) weren’t perfect on Saturday night, but they didn’t let their bye week throw them off their game on their way to a sixth straight appearance in the AFC championship game.
They intercepted Brock Osweiler three times and sent the heavy-underdog Texans (10-8) home on the strength of a breakout performance by their backup running back Lewis.
Brady threw for two touchdowns, despite two interceptions in an 18-for-38 performance, and improved to 23-9 in the playoffs in his career.
Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 137 yards for the Patriots, who will host either Kansas City or Pittsburgh on Jan. 22 for a spot in the Super Bowl.
Dion Lewis has developed into the latest postseason star for the New England Patriots, who have pulled away from the Houston Texans with the AFC championship game in sight.
Lewis became the first player in NFL history to score a touchdown by rushing, receiving and a kickoff return in the same postseason game. His 1-yard run midway through the fourth quarter put the Patriots up 31-16 on Saturday night.
In his second season with New England, Lewis has become quite the good-luck charm. He missed a full year of action because of a torn ACL, but the Patriots have yet to lose in the 15 games he’s played.
The Houston Texans haven’t disappeared, despite enduring their share of setbacks in the second half in New England.
Nick Novak’s 46-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter has cut the Patriots’ lead to 24-16, pulling the Texans within a touchdown and a 2-point conversion on Saturday night.
Tom Brady has thrown two interceptions for the Patriots and has had trouble getting in a groove, but he has two TD passes and enough long gains to help the heavy favorites stay in front entering the final stretch.
Brady is 22-9 in his career in the NFL playoffs.
The Houston Texans have made a game of this divisional round contest at New England, where they were supposed to be overmatched.
The Patriots lead 17-13 at halftime on Saturday night, but only thanks to a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dion Lewis in the first quarter.
The hard-hitting Texans defense deserves most of the credit. They’ve intercepted a pass from Tom Brady, sacked him twice and knocked him down numerous times. Then they rebounded from a 48-yard completion to Julian Edelman on third-and-9 to thwart a first-and-goal situation from the 3. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal on the last play of the second quarter.
Julian Edelman is now tied for ninth on the NFL’s all-time postseason reception list.
The Patriots receiver caught two passes in the first half of Saturday night’s game against the Houston Texans. That gave him 70 in his career, tied with Anquan Boldin and Fred Biletnikoff. Also within range are Cliff Branch (73) and Thurman Thomas (76).
Jerry Rice is first with 151.
The Houston Texans are staying in the game against the New England Patriots by forcing turnovers.
A.J. Bouye intercepted a pass from Tom Brady late in the first quarter on a pass that bounced off the hands of receiver Michael Floyd. That led to a 27-yard field goal that cut New England’s lead to 14-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, Dion Lewis coughed up the ball on a hit from Akeem Dent. Eddie Pleasant fell on it at the Patriots 12, and two plays later Brock Osweiler hit C.J. Fiedorowicz from 8 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13.
Brady only threw two interceptions during the regular season. With his 28 touchdown passes, that was the lowest ratio in NFL history.
Dion Lewis is stealing the show so far for New England.
The running back who missed the first half of the season because of a knee injury has scored the first two touchdowns of the game against Houston on Saturday night, and neither score came by a rushing attempt.
He turned a short pass from Tom Brady into a 13-yard touchdown reception. Then later in the first quarter, Lewis returned Nick Novak’s kickoff 98 yards for a score to put the Patriots up 14-3 after a decent drive by the Texans had gotten them on the board.
That was the first postseason kickoff return for a touchdown in Patriots franchise history.
Stephen Gostkowski is moving up the NFL’s career postseason scoring list.
The New England Patriots kicker made an extra point in the first quarter to pass Jerry Rice and move into third place on the league’s career list. It was Gostkowski’s 133rd postseason point, breaking a tie with the San Francisco 49ers receiver.
Next up are kickers Gary Anderson, David Akers and all-time leader Adam Vinatieri, who had half of his 234 career postseason points with New England before moving on to the Indianapolis Colts.
Las Vegas casinos tried to entice bettors to go against the Patriots. They’re not, even facing one of the biggest spreads in playoff history.
New England is favored by more than two touchdowns on Saturday night, even though Houston’s defense finished the regular season with the fewest yards allowed.
Odds listed by Pregame.com showed the line closed at many casinos at 16 or 17 points, after opening worldwide at 13.5 points favoring New England.
Sports books are generally hesitant to move a line on either side of a multiple of 7, since teams often win by a touchdown or two exactly and they don’t want to be burned by bets on both sides of their line. The line movement shows bettors were gambling heavy on the Patriots.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll says that cornerback DeShawn Shead suffered a significant left knee injury.
Shead went down on the second play of the second half in Saturday’s 36-20 loss to Atlanta. Shead was hurt in a non-contact injury as he appeared to plant and break on a pass play. He was helped off the field not putting any weight on his leg, but was walking with a limp on the sideline.
Carroll didn’t have an exact diagnosis but called the injury significant and said, “That’s what it looks like,” when asked if it was an ACL injury.
The Atlanta Falcons have advanced to the NFC championship game for the fourth time in franchise history, beating the Seattle Seahawks 36-20 in the NFC divisional playoff game on Saturday.
Matt Ryan threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns as Atlanta won just its second playoff game since 2004. Atlanta last played in the NFC title game four years ago, losing to San Francisco at home. The Falcons will face either Dallas or Green Bay in the NFC championship game next Sunday.
The Falcons used a 19-point second quarter to take a 19-10 halftime lead and added a pair of touchdowns in the second half, capped by Ryan’s 3-yard TD to Mohamed Sanu with 3:40 remaining.
Seattle lost in the divisional round for the second straight year and the Seahawks have not won a road game in this round of the postseason since 1983.
Russell Wilson threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but also fell in the end zone for a safety and threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Seattle started quick, taking a 10-7 lead, but never recovered from a momentum-changing penalty on a punt return in the second quarter that sparked Atlanta’s surge.
It appears two teams from the Seattle area are going to see their respective football seasons end in the Georgia Dome.
Mohamed Sanu caught a 3-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to put Atlanta up 36-13 with less than four minutes left on Saturday night.
But the Seahawks chances of rallying in the fourth quarter took a major hit earlier when Russell Wilson was intercepted by Ricardo Allen with 8:31 remaining and the Falcons leading 29-13.
Two weeks ago, Washington saw its college football season come to an end when the Huskies lost to Alabama 24-7 in the Peach Bowl. The matchup between the Huskies and Crimson Tide was the final college football game to be played at the stadium. It remains to be seen if there will be one more NFL game.
The NFC divisional playoff game against Atlanta is taking a toll on Seattle’s tight ends.
Brandon Williams has been ruled out with a concussion and another backup Seahawks tight end, Luke Wilson, is being evaluated for a possible concussion.
Meanwhile, Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead has not returned since being helped off the field with a left knee injury early in the second half. Shead appeared to be unable to put weight on the left leg as he left the field.
While Seahawks right guard Germain Ifedi was out with an apparent left leg injury, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tripped over Ifedi’s replacement, Rees Odhiambo, and fell in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter. Ifedi returned on the next possession.
The Falcons have lost defensive end Adrian Clayborn with a biceps injury suffered on Seattle’s opening drive and will not return.
— Charles Odum in Atlanta.
Emotions are heated again between Atlanta’s offense and Seattle’s defense. Just like when the teams played a tight game in Week 6.
After Devonta Freeman’s 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, quarterback Matt Ryan was face-to-face with strong safety Kam Chancellor, and defensive end Michael Bennett was arguing with left tackle Ryan Schraeder.
Receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Jeremy Lane had a spirited discussion earlier in the period.
The teams went at it similarly in Atlanta’s narrow loss at Seattle during the regular season. Cornerback Richard Sherman pulled down Jones’ arm to prevent a late catch that would have put the Falcons in field-goal range. Bennett left the game with a knee injury after a legal cut block by left tackle Jake Matthews and was infuriated.
— George Henry reporting from Atlanta.
The Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks have exchanged scores in the third quarter.
Devonta Freeman’s 1-yard TD run on the opening possession of the second half gave Atlanta a 26-10 lead. Seattle answered with its own long scoring drive that was capped by a 26-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to pull within 26-13.
Atlanta had its third touchdown drive of 75 or more yards capped when Freeman dived in from the 1. Seattle’s defense had allowed just 11 touchdown drives of 75 of more yards over the final eight games of the regular season, but All-Pro Matt Ryan has found openings in Seattle’s secondary.
Seattle went 80 yards in 14 plays on its scoring drive but stalled inside the Atlanta 10 and had to settle for Hauschka’s second field goal.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback DeShawn Shead is listed as questionable after being helped off the field with a left knee injury early in the second half of an NFC divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night.
Shead appeared to be unable to put weight on the left leg as he left the field.
Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn suffered a biceps injury on Seattle’s opening drive and will not return. Seahawks right guard Germain Ifedi suffered an apparent left leg injury on the same drive.
Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson tripped over Ifedi’s replacement, Rees Odhiambo, and fell in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter. Ifedi returned on the next possession.
Also, Seahawks tight end Brandon Williams was being checked for a possible concussion.
— Charles Odum in Atlanta.
Seattle cornerback DeShawn Shead appeared to suffer a serious injury to his left knee on the second play of the second half.
Shead was hurt in a non-contact injury as he appeared to plant and break on a pass play.
He was helped off the field not putting any weight on his leg, but was walking with a limp on the sideline. The team said Shead was questionable to return.
Shead was replaced by undrafted rookie DeAndre Elliott.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL