It certainly wasn't a pretty game, but the outcome is all that matters from Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots will advance to an almost unfathomable sixth straight AFC Championship Game apperance. That is due to a 34-16 victory over the Houston Texans. While it wasn't pretty, a win is a win. With the game behind us now, here are some quick thoughts from the victory.
1. Dion Lewis - In the veteran running back's first career playoff appearance he certainly didn't disappoint. Lewis was crucial to the Patriots victory as he contributed three touchdowns to the cause. His touchdowns came in a variety of ways, rushing, receiving, and a return touchdown. He became the first player in NFL history to record three touchdowns in that manner.
2. Logan Ryan - While Lewis contributed a majority of the New England points, Ryan was equally important in the victory. He may be number two on the Patriots' depth chart at corner back, but Ryan was dominant in the victory. Ryan had seven tackles, four solo, a sack, and an interception. The pending free agent was force and shut down the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins all night.
3. Julian Edelman - Lewis may have been the most important offensive piece in the win, but Edelman was a close second. Edelman had eight catches for 137 yards in the win. Early in the game Edelman became the Patriots all time leader in postseason receptions.
4. Room for Improvement - The Patriots may have gotten the win on Saturday night but it was far from pretty. The offense turned the ball over three times, including an uncharacteristic two interceptions by Tom Brady. New England's offensve line may also have had it's worst game of the season as Tom Brady took numerous vicious hits. If the team plays like that next week it could be a long afternoon in the AFC Championship Game.
5. Tom Brady - In his long and storied career, it should be no surprise that Tom Brady continues to rewrite the NFL's record books. Brady now owns a record that he probably wishes he didn't own. With his first interception, Brady tied Brett Favre's record of 30 interceptions thrown in the postseason. After throwing his second interception, Brady now has sole possession of the record with 31. On the positive side, Brady will be advancing to his 11th AFC Championship Game. To put things in perspective, only four other teams in the NFL have gone to as many conference championship games as Brady.
6. Return Game - With the struggles of rookie Cyrus Jones in the return game this season, it has been a revolving door of sorts for the Patriots when it comes to kick returners. While Lewis did fumble on one kick return Saturday night, his touchdown could see him earning more kick return responsibilities next weekend.
Extra Point - Next week's opponent remains to be seen at this point. However, considering how the team looked on Saturday night it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Patriots play maybe their most complete game of the season next week. A very underwhelming performance on Saturday night could lead to a long week of practice to get the team refocused for the AFC Championship Game.