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Faulk sitting in a power position

HOUSTON -- The Patriots may run by committee, but it's quite clear who that committee's chair is.

Playing in front of "a lot" of family members and friends from Houston and Lafayette La., Kevin Faulk amassed 188 yards from scrimmage on 31 touches in the Patriots' 23-20 overtime victory over the Texans.

Faulk matched his career high, set Oct. 26 against Cleveland, with 23 carries, for 80 yards. With receivers Troy Brown and David Givens out, Faulk established season highs with game highs of eight receptions and 108 yards. As opposed to his clone counterpart and fellow Louisiana State alumnus, Texans rookie Domanick Davis, who managed 69 yards on 24 carries and caught one pass.

And, as usual, Faulk did his best work near the end of the day. He had a 21-yard reception and a 5-yard run on the tying fourth-quarter drive. He caught a pass for 16 yards and ran twice for 8 more on the winning drive in overtime.

Faulk is in the final year of his rookie contract. He's making a case for himself as one of New England's most valuable offensive employees. He leads the team with 508 rushing yards and 39 receptions. "I just try to help out in whatever way the team asks me to," Faulk said. "Whether it's up the middle, to the outside, making catches, whatever. I just go in and try to make plays."

Said offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, "Whenever he has the ball in his hands, he's usually making positive plays."

As for the other committee members, Weis used them all. Antowain Smith, who lives in Houston, carried eight times, though for only 10 yards. Mike Cloud (active for the first time in more than a month) and Patrick Pass (seeing fullback duty in place of the injured Fred McCrary) each carried twice and caught one pass.

Davey on the move

It appears second-year quarterback Rohan Davey has overtaken veteran Damon Huard as the team's backup to Tom Brady.

Davey was among the 45 active players for just the second time this season and fourth time in his career. After performing mop-up duty against Buffalo in the opener, Davey had been listed as the emergency quarterback the past nine games. He was the third QB in 14 games as a rookie.

Davey said he was "surprised" when the coaches told him he'd be the No. 2 QB late last week. He said he has not been informed whether the promotion is permanent. "I don't know," Davey said. "Coach [Bill] Belichick has a good feel for what's going on with the team. Whatever he and Coach Weis decide I'm sure is the right thing."

Huard, originally signed as Drew Bledsoe's backup, is in the final year of a three-year contract.

Receivers hamstrung

Brown and Givens both were inactive with hamstring injuries. Givens, injured during the second half of last week's game against Dallas, did not make the trip, contrary to a report in yesterday's Globe, while the call on Brown came down to game time for the second straight week. "Close," Brown said. "I did a little running around out there. When I'm ready I'll be ready. I'm just taking this thing one day at a time."

Tyrone Poole returned punts in place of Brown, averaging 10.5 yards on four returns, with a long of 18. Rookie Bethel Johnson started in Brown's place opposite Deion Branch. Each had five receptions and Johnson scored his first career touchdown, a 27-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter. Johnson is from Corsicana, Texas, and went to Texas A&M, so he had a cheering section at Reliant Stadium.

"After I scored that touchdown, I just looked up and saluted them," Johnson said. "It's great that they can be here instead of seeing it on satellite."

As for New England's newcomers at receiver, Dedric Ward caught three passes for 33 yards and J.J. Stokes one for 31. Said Belichick, "They worked as hard [during the week] as any two players I've ever had work for one game."

Healthy attitude

The Patriots seemed to come away relatively healthy. Chris Akins left in the first quarter with a right leg injury and did not return. Ty Law and Rodney Harrison left the game briefly but returned. Joe Andruzzi missed part of the second half with what the team reported was an arm injury, though he left the stadium with an ice pack on the back of his neck. Matt Light had his right arm wrapped in ice, while Mike Vrabel had X-rays done after the game . . . Antwan Harris was an interesting inactive. Apparently rookie Shawn Mayer, added from the practice squad Saturday, has been outperforming Harris on special teams. Mayer made two special-teams tackles yesterday . . . Willie McGinest made a team-high eight tackles, three for a loss, while Richard Seymour deflected four passes to go with a sack and four tackles . . . Texans nose tackle and ex-Patriot Steve Martin had nine tackles, a deflected pass, and a sack on New England's first play from scrimmage. Texans tight end Jabari Holloway, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2000, made one diving catch for 5 yards . . . Ramon Walker on his blocked field goal: "We knew we could get a block during the week. We picked it up on film. It was a big advantage to know what they were going to do." And on his blocked punt: "I saw that there was a linebacker [Tedy Bruschi] playing the wing position. I knew I could beat him with my speed. We watched film earlier in the week and the technique they were using put a big gap in the line. We worked on a jump-through technique where you just [get] through and lay out." . . . Punter (for now) Ken Walter did nothing to help his cause, averaging 31.3 yards on four punts, including a 31-yarder in overtime . . . Brady's 29-12 regular-season record (.707 winning percentage) is the best among active quarterbacks. Yesterday's win improved his record in overtime games to 7-0, the best undefeated mark in league history . . . Former running back George Peoples, 43, who played with the Patriots in 1983, was found dead in a Tampa motel room yesterday. Obituary, A18 . . . Ted Johnson's father, Ted Sr., owns a barbecue restaurant called "Rib Tickler" in Tomball, Texas, and catered the postgame meal

in today's globe
 DOLPHINS 24, REDSKINS 23: With Fiedler game, Miami on rebound
 PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Faulk sitting in a power position
 ON FOOTBALL: Messy but satisfying
 PATRIOTS' NEXT FOE: INDIANAPOLIS: Ailing Colts do bang-up job
 PATRIOTS 23, TEXANS 20: Escape artists
 DAN SHAUGHNESSY: Brady's the late-game master
 FOOTBALL MONDAY: No drop in his resolve
last game
 Box score         Game log
Next game:
Nov. 30 at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4 Radio: WBCN (104.1)

afc east standings
  W L T Pct. PF PA
Patriots 9 2 0 .818 19.9 15.9
Dolphins 7 4 0 .636 18.3 15.5
Bills 4 7 0 .364 15.7 17.0
Jets 4 7 0 .364 19.1 20.1
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