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(Sunday, January 3rd)
Final Score: Houston 34, New England 27
Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Arian Foster's second touchdown of the game with 1:54 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the Houston Texans to a thrilling 34-27 victory over the New England Patriots at Reliant Stadium.
Foster had 119 yards on 20 carries for the Texans (9-7), who secured a winning season for the first time in the franchise's eight-year history but were eliminated from playoff contention later Sunday.
In order to clinch its first playoff berth, Houston needed two losses from either the Jets, Ravens and Broncos. Denver lost its game against Kansas City later Sunday, while Baltimore beat Oakland to clinch a spot in the postseason. The Jets put the nail in the coffin with a 37-0 drubbing of Cincinnati on Sunday night.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 303 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, which was returned for a score.
The Texans erased a 14-point fourth quarter deficit.
Tom Brady, playing with injured ribs, was 17-of-26 for 186 yards and one costly interception that set up the game-winning touchdown. The Patriots (10-6), whose status as the third or fourth seed in the AFC has not yet been determined, will next take on the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium next Sunday at 1 p.m. (et) in the opening round of the playoffs.
Since the Patriots had already locked up the AFC East title and were assured of playing in the opening round of the playoffs, the decision to limit key players for fear of injury was a question for head coach Bill Belichick. A potentially nightmarish scenario then unfolded on New England's first possession.
Dynamic wide receiver Wes Welker, who entered the game leading the league with a career-high 122 catches, hauled in a pass from Brady and his left knee appeared to buckle as he attempted to make a cut upfield. After remaining down for several moments, Welker limped off the field and was eventually taken to the locker room on a cart. Reports later said that Welker likely has a torn anterior cruiciate ligament in the knee, which would end his season.
The Texans moved the ball effectively on their first possession of the third quarter, but Schaub's pass deflected off the hands of Jacoby Jones and was reeled in by rookie New England cornerback Darius Butler, who sprinted 91 yards for a touchdown and 20-13 Patriots advantage.
The woes continued for kicker Kris Brown, who missed his second field goal of the game -- a 38-yarder -- on Houston's next series.
Fred Taylor's 11-yard touchdown run capped a nine-play, 71-yard drive and gave New England a seemingly comfortable 27-13 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Houston, though, battled back as Schaub threw an eight-yard touchdown to Jones and Foster scored on a one-yard plunge, tying the game with 4:43 remaining.
"That can really get you down when you move the ball like we did in the third quarter and get nothing," said Houston head coach Gary Kubiak. "But we just tried to keep (the players) upbeat."
Texans safety Bernard Pollard, who recovered a fumble for a touchdown earlier in the game, picked off Brady on the subsequent series and rumbled to the New England 28. Four consecutive runs by Foster gave Houston the lead just past the two-minute warning.
Brian Hoyer, an undrafted rookie quarterback out of Michigan State, took over the New England offense and led the team into Houston territory. The Texans prevailed when Hoyer's pass to Julian Edelman on fourth down was off the mark.
"It's good anytime you get a chance to play some real live action," Hoyer said. "Obviously whenever you go out there you want to win. I'm disappointed we couldn't get that last drive in the end zone."
Houston found the end zone on the game's opening drive as Schaub and Joel Dreessen hooked up for a 25-yard scoring play.
The Patriots regrouped on their second series and tied the game with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a four-yard touchdown run by Taylor. A Stephen Gostkowski 51-yard field goal gave New England a 10-7 lead with five minutes gone in the second quarter.
Houston marched to the New England one-yard line on the ensuing drive and rolled the dice on fourth down, foregoing a chip shot field goal. But Schaub's intended pass to Andre Johnson fell incomplete.
However, Taylor fumbled on the first play of the next series and Pollard scooped up the ball in the end zone. The Texans led 13-10 after Brown failed to convert the extra point.
Hoyer then guided the New England offense across midfield and Gostkowski drilled a 43-yarder inside the final minute.
The game remained tied at 13 after Brown's 56-yard attempt sailed wide right as the first half expired.
The Patriots made their first appearance at Reliant Stadium since defeating Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII...Edelman had 103 yards on 10 receptions, while Randy Moss caught five passes for 75 yards for New England...The Patriots finished with a 2-6 record on the road, which includes a win as the visitor against Tampa Bay in London...Schaub completed 24-of-39 passes...Hoyer finished 8-of-12 for 71 yards.
01/03 23:46:07 ET