FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — At the end of a rare run for Tom Brady — a rare run that converted a third-and-5 — Tom Brady bounced to his feet, shrugging off a Houston Texans' hit. Brady gave an exaggerated, all-out fist pump, a fist pump worthy of Tiger Woods in his prime.
As the New England Patriots' crowd roared its approval, chanting, "MVP! MVP! MVP!" one thing became very clear.
Tom Brady really wanted this game. The Golden Boy quarterback may have plenty of monster wins to his name, but he'd seize another Monday Night Football showdown by its throat, turning what ESPN advertised as "The Game of the Year" into a complete rout.
Did the Texans want it as bad as the three-time world champions? It's hard to say that from the way they played.
The emphatic fist pump came with the Patriots already holding a commanding 28-7 lead. Brady wanted more.
Gary Kubiak's team was embarrassed from start to finish, falling 42-14 — and losing their stranglehold on homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs in the process.
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Texans went wrong. And the Patriots had a perfect game plan, one that exploited the Texans' weaknesses by creating mismatches with tight end Aaron Hernandez and slot receiver Wes Welker.
As much of a difference as Wade Phillips has made with the defense, true superstar quarterbacks still relish playing Houston's secondary. Drew Brees put 40 points up against them in New Orleans last season. Aaron Rodgers threw six touchdowns on them in that Sunday Night disaster. And Brady . . . well, he had four touchdowns just five minutes into the second half on Monday night.
Phillips stubbornly largely stuck with the Texans' base defense — and paid for it.
Houston (11-2) still has a two-game lead in the AFC South with only three games to play. The Texans are still guaranteed a chance to make a statement in the playoffs. But the idea of the AFC Championship running through Reliant Stadium . . . that's anything but secure anymore.
Not with New England (10-3) now lurking just one-game back and holding the head-to-head first tiebreaker edge.
Brady finished 21 of 35 for 296 yards and those four touchdowns. The Texans had no star to match. Arian Foster — who has been so good in major games — never got going, totaling 46 yards on 15 carries. Matt Schaub threw a costly interception in the end zone and never got Kubiak's offense moving before being taken out with 7:23 remaining, with the game long over. Andre Johnson caught a lot of passes, but made no big impact plays.
The quarterback's emphatic fist pump came with the Patriots already holding a commanding 28-7 lead (it was 21-0 after New England's first three possessions). Brady wanted more. Now, the Texans need a lot more help.