The New England Patriots defeated the Houston Texans, 41-28, in a game that wasn't as close as the score suggests.
Players shined on both sides of the ball for the Patriots, with big plays coming from a variety of likely and unlikely sources.
What is surprising is the impact guys like Shane Vereen and Rob Ninkovich had. Vereen had three touchdowns and 124 total yards in a brilliant performance, while Ninkovich reeled in an interception that might have put the nail in the Texans' coffin.
For the Texans, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson stepped up in a big way despite the loss.
Let's break down the best performances in this game, including these guys and more.
Patriots' Offensive Line
Singling out any individual on this unit is difficult, but the Patriots' offensive line was fantastic against the Texans. The unit surrendered just one sack the entire game, paving the way for 122 yards on the ground.
Sebastian Vollmer deserves special credit for slowing J.J. Watt, the dynamic Houston defensive end. Vollmer held Watt to just half a sack and one solo tackle, regularly handling Watt at the line.
This unit as a whole did a great job today and deserved the first mention among prime-time performers.
As usual, Tom Brady was in complete control Sunday night. His 344 yard and three touchdowns accurately reflect just how effective Brady really was in the Patriots' dominant offensive showing.
There is not much to be said about Brady anymore. His accuracy was as superb as ever, and he looked unflappable in the pocket. Just another great game from a great player.
The highly-touted Vereen was due for a breakout performance, and this was it. In fact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, Vereen's performance was in some pretty historic company:
(ELIAS) Shane Vereen: 3rd player in NFL postseason history with 2 TD catches and a TD run in same playoff game (Roger Craig, Ricky Watters)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 14, 2013
Yep, Vereen racked up three touchdowns Sunday, along with 124 yards of total offense. He was dynamic on nearly every touch, both through the air and on the ground. This was a breakout performance for the running back and more is to be expected from him in 2013.
The Patriots' defensive MVP might just be Ninkovich, whose interception of Matt Schaub was devastating for the Texans.
Ninkovich had a great season with eight sacks. His big interception was the crown jewel for the solid linebacker, and his big play is definitely worthy of note.
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