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Houston defense bent, finally broke

HOUSTON -- The Texans came up with enough big defensive plays against the Patriots yesterday to last an entire season. They could have used one more.

Although the Patriots had 303 yards more offense, the Texans' opportunistic defense kept them in game until the final minute of overtime. That's when Adam Vinatieri's 28-yard field goal sent the Patriots to a 23-20 win at Reliant Stadium.

"We made a couple of big plays," Texans defensive end Jerry DeLoach said. "Guys stepped up at crucial times, but we weren't fortunate to make that one more play to push us over the top and get us the win."

Based on the numbers -- in particular a 472-169 edge in yards for the Patriots -- the game had no business taking nearly 75 minutes to decide. But the Texans used two second-half turnovers -- both of which led to touchdowns -- and a pair of blocked kicks by Ramon Walker to put a scare into the Patriots.

"They did have a lot of yards, but the thing was they only had 20 points [entering overtime]," Texans cornerback Marcus Coleman said. "You can run sideways and up and down the field all you want, but once they got in the red zone and you keep them out of the end zone that's the only thing that counts."

The Patriots penetrated Texans territory four times without scoring any points, including twice in the second half. They turned the ball over on downs at the 34 in the third quarter, and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady fumbled at the 31 in the fourth quarter.

"We didn't capitalize on our opportunities, and they capitalized on theirs," Texans coach Dom Capers said. "We had a blocked field goal in a situation where things didn't look too good. We were able to capitalize and score points on the takeaways.

"It came down to them making the plays at the end of the game. There have been games like that where we made them, but unfortunately we didn't make them today. Our execution didn't match our intentions today at critical times in the game."

The Texans had just 80 yards of offense and were trailing, 10-3, late in the third quarter when Coleman intercepted a Brady pass and returned it 29 yards to the Patriots' 11-yard line. The Texans tied the game at 10 two plays later on Tony Banks's 10-yard pass to Andre Johnson.

Trailing, 13-10, midway through the fourth quarter, Texans linebacker Kailee Wong walloped Brady to force a fumble. Jay Foreman scooped up the loose ball and returned it 33 yards to the Patriots' 31 to set up the go-ahead touchdown on Banks's 16-yard pass to Billy Miller with 6:49 left.

"[Wong] beat my man and his man, so we had a pretty good rush," Foreman said. "I just ran in there and caught it on the bounce and tried to get as far down the field as I could."

The Patriots went three plays and out on their next possession, but Walker blocked the punt to give the Texans control at the Patriots' 20. That led to a 31-yard field goal by Kris Brown that put Houston ahead, 20-13, with 3:11 to go.

"I saw that there was a linebacker playing the wing position," Walker said. "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 go through and lay out."

After the Patriots forced overtime with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Daniel Graham on fourth-and-1, the Texans took the ball to start OT and promptly turned it over at their 23. But Walker broke through the line and blocked a 37-yard field goal try by Vinatieri that would have won the game.

The Texans put themselves in position to win again when Jamie Sharper sacked Brady for a 9-yard loss on third-and-6 from the Patriots' 13, but they couldn't capitalize despite taking over at the New England 35.

With the Texans' defense sucking wind, the Patriots drove 76 yards and won the game with 41 seconds left in OT on Vinatieri's field goal. The Texans committed two costly holding penalties on the final drive and didn't force the Patriots to convert a third down.

"When it was time to make the plays, we just didn't," Foreman said. "We had plenty of opportunities to win, and we just didn't do it. They made the plays on the last drive to kick the field goal."

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
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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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