FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs the ball for a first down against the Houston Texans in the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
So much for Monday's Texans-Patriots matchup being a preview of the AFC Championship game between two of the conference's best teams. That game could still happen but the only thing we learned from their Week 14 get-together is that the national stage is still way too big for Houston, a team that didn't exist until Tom Brady's third year in the league.
Monday's showcase was over by halftime. New England jumped out to a 21-0 lead and cruised to a 42-14 victory, their 10th on the season.
"I think we put too much emphasis on this being a huge game and not doing our approach," Houston linebacker Brady James said via CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman. "Sometimes guys get a little tight and things get out of hand."
The always pithy Texans wideout Andre Johnson was more succinct in his assessment of how things went: "It was a good ass whipping."
Brady, of course, was much more diplomatic: "We had to see where we're at against [one of] the better teams in the league."
Where they are is a familiar spot: atop the conference (if not statically, then in everyone's mind who's half-paying attention) with the playoffs just around the corner. And any questions about peaking at the right time were answered in short order as the Pats thoroughly outplayed what most people suspected was a much better Texans outfit. In fact, the conversation included requisite "Brady for MVP" back-and-forths. And deservedly so; he finished with 396 yards (21 of 35 passing), 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I heard it," Brady said Tuesday morning during his weekly radio appearance on WEEI (via ESPNBoston.com). "I'm very flattered to even be considered for something like that. But honestly, the most important thing for me is winning games and enjoying it with my teammates. I rely -- everything that I do is dependent upon them, on the group of guys that I play with, and the successful years we've had with our team have been all about team football. That's what our team has been built on, and that's what our team is all about.
"There's no greater experience than winning and winning with the group of guys that we have," Brady continued. "Winning seven straight [games] has been pretty exceptional. That's 100 percent of where my focus is, and I'm proud to play on this team and hopefully we can keep winning. Certainly this week is going to be our biggest challenge we've had all year."
The win was important for another reason; it keeps New England in the No. 2 seed in the AFC ahead of Denver. But there's no rest for the weary; the Pats host the 49ers Sunday before closing out the season against the Jaguars and Dolphins.