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Texans hoping to turn tables on Patriots

HoustTexans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) fights off block New EnglPatriots center Ryan Wendell (62) during first quarter an NFL

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) fights off the block of New England Patriots center Ryan Wendell (62) during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

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Updated: January 13, 2013 12:05AM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After flopping on the big stage in a 42-14
loss to the New England Patriots on ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ on
Dec. 10 at Gillette Stadium, the Houston Texans lost more than a football game.

They ultimately lost the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, the chance to play the Patriots at Reliant Stadium instead of Foxborough in the postseason and probably a big chunk of the faith of NFL fans that they are ready to take the next step.

That blowout made the difference for two teams that finished 12-4 in the regular season. But the disparity seems greater than that as the Texans face the Patriots in an AFC divisional playoff game Sunday. The Texans were 51/2-point underdogs in December; they’re 91/2-point underdogs in the rematch.

‘‘We got our butts kicked,’’
Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. ‘‘We didn’t play like we know how to play. But you can’t dwell on the past. It happened; we know it happened. Everybody saw it. We’re not running away from it, but it’s a new game.’’

In Week 13, the Patriots scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to open a 21-0 lead. Texans running back Arian Foster was held to 46 yards on 15 carries, and defensive end J.J. Watt had no sacks or pass deflections. Watt did force a fumble, but it was recovered by receiver Brandon Lloyd in the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 35-7 lead.

It was that kind of night for the Texans, which in a perverse way gives them hope they can turn it around this time. How can so many things go wrong at once?

‘‘We know if we play well, we’re capable of beating anybody,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘It’s a great opportunity for us. We’ll be ready.’’

The Texans contributed to their own demise in the previous game. Foster had a 12-yard run on the first play from scrimmage nullifed by an illegal-formation penalty. A holding penalty on a third-and-six incompletion gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs and led to their first touchdown. Patriots running back Stevan Ridley fumbled at the Texans’ 4, but tight end Aaron Hernandez recovered.

‘‘All the previous games are meaningless; it’s a bunch of garbage,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ‘‘The game will have its own
elements and write its own story.’’

The Texans do have one sliver of history on their side. Two years ago, the Patriots whipped the New York Jets 45-3 in December at Gillette Stadium but lost to them 28-21 at home in a playoff rematch.

‘‘There are a lot of people telling us what we can’t do,’’ Watt said. ‘‘[We’re] working hard to prove what we can do. Even if it’s just us 53, that’s all it takes.’’

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