The Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-13 Saturday to punch its ticket to Foxborough next weekend to play the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.
That game will be played on Sunday, Jan. 13 at Gillette Stadium. Kick-off is 4:30 p.m. Tickets for next Sunday's game go on sale to the general public Monday morning on Ticketmaster.com. Click here for more information.
The Jan. 13 showdown between the Patriots and Texans will be a rematch of the Week 14 meeting between the two teams on Monday Night Football. The Pats crushed the Texans, 42-14 in that Dec. 10 meeting at Gillette Stadium to put the team in position for a first round playoff bye.
On Jan. 13, the stakes will be much higher as the Pats and Texans play to keep their respective seasons alive and advance to the AFC Championship game.
"It’s just a one game season," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week. "Once we know who our opponent is, then we’ll zero in on that opponent and try to do everything we can to get our highest level of performance against them next Sunday."
That opponent was identified after the final whistle of the first wild card game this weekend. All the Texans had to do was beat the Bengals to earn a trip to Foxborough. If the Texans lost then the Pats would have faced the winner of Sunday's Indianapolis Colts/Baltimore Ravens Wild Card game. That winner now goes on to play the Broncos in Denver next Saturday.
Belichick told media earlier this week the team will operate under the same preparation schedule regardless of who the opponent will be. On Saturday night, somewhere not too far from Foxborough, the longtime Patriots head coach is putting his folders on the Colts and Ravens away to focus on his scouting reports on the Texans.
"We’ll be full speed ahead on Houston," Belichick said.
In that Week 14 win over the Texans, Tom Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns and Stevan Ridley gained 72 yards on the ground and added a rushing score. The defense turned in one of its better efforts of the regular season, keeping stars like Arian Foster and Andre Johnson in check most of the night. The Patriots built a 21-0 lead by halftime.
Next Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium will be the fifth time the Patriots and Texans meet since Houston entered the NFL in 2002 and for the first time in the playoffs. New England is 3-1 all-time vs. Houston.
The Patriots are 13-3 all-time at home in the playoffs but just 9-6 in the AFC Divisional Round. Quarterback Tom Brady, now in his 13th NFL season, understands the importance of preparation and execution in the playoffs.
"I think coach [Belichick] said it best [earlier this week]," Brady said. "He said, ‘You make one mistake in this type of game and that’s your season.’ It’s no more, ‘I’ll get it figured out next week and it’s something we have to learn from and move on from.’ No, it’s your season. That’s the kind of urgency you have in practice and certainly when we play here a week from Sunday. We’ve been working hard to figure out a bunch of things. There’s a packet full of things we need to do better and things that we’re really trying to work hard to improve on. Guys have really taken to those things; hopefully that leads into a great week of practice next week."
Players are off Sunday before returning to work Monday in preparation for the Texans.