BY NICK ST. DENIS
The Houston Texans were poised to be the New England Patriots' biggest threat thus far. Turns out, they were no threat at all.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes -- three in the first half and one early in the third quarter -- to lead New England to a 42-14 blowout victory over Houston.
Brady connected with tight end Aaron Hernandez for a pair of scoring plays, and Brandon Lloyd and Donte' Stallworth -- who came in off the couch last week -- were on the receiving end of a score apiece.
The Texans' pass defense was worse than spotty, with awful coverage and miscommunication dooming and humiliating defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' squad. However, Brady regularly exploited his opponent, recognizing all the weaknesses and throwing strikes.
The run game helped, which set up play action. That was evident on Brady's touchdown throw to Lloyd, which saw a well-executed play-fake draw most of the Texans' defense and leaving Lloyd wide open down the middle.
"We had a few other pretty critical plays trying to fake the run and you can get some great separation on the defense when that happens and we did a good job of that," Brady said after the game.
Despite completing just one of seven passes in a mini-slump streak in the third quarter, Brady finished the game with 21 completions on 35 attempts for 296 yards. His scoring strike to Stallworth was the pass that broke that slump and put the game out of reach at 28-0.
Brady could've had a fifth touchdown had Danny Woodhead hung on to a J.J. Watt-punched fumble, though Lloyd ended up recovering the ball in the end zone, anyway.
The veteran signal-caller also ran for a first down in the game, which he was particularly fired up about.
"I don't run too often, so I’ve got to show them that I can still do it a little bit," he said.
With the win, New England improved to just one game behind Houston in the race for the AFC's top seed.
Follow Nick @NickStDenis
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily