The Houston Texans vowed this game would be different than their embarrassing, 28-point loss to the Patriots in the regular season.
Only the margin of victory changed.
The Texans mounted enough offense to avert a repeat of the Dec. 10 blowout that signaled they weren't ready to compete with the defending AFC champions. With a second chance and a spot in the conference title game at stake, they could do little more than keep it close for a half in a 41-28 loss in New England on Sunday.
Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 94 yards, but he was brought down at the Patriots 12 and the Texans settled for a field goal. Houston scored 10 points in the final minutes of the first half — but still trailed 17-13.
That essentially clinched the game for the Patriots and sent them to their seventh AFC championship game since the 2001 season.