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NEW ENGLAND 23, HOUSTON 20 (OT)

Redemption for Vinatieri

November 24, 2003|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — For all his misfortune Sunday, Adam Vinatieri wasn't going to let New England's winning streak end with a tie.

He rebounded from a missed field-goal attempt off the right upright in regulation and a block early in overtime to make a 28-yarder with 41 seconds left. The Patriots escaped Houston with a 23-20 victory, extending their winning streak to seven and establishing their best 11-game start at 9-2.

Vinatieri appeared poised to win it for the Patriots in the opening moments of overtime.

The Texans' Tony Banks, starting as David Carr sat with a sprained right shoulder, threw an interception right to Mike Vrabel on the first play. But Ramon Walker gave the Texans a stay with the franchise's first field-goal block, coming free from the left side to deflect Vinatieri's 37-yard try.

"At that point I was a little down, but I had faith in our defense," Vinatieri said. "I just wanted another opportunity, and I thought the defense would give it to me."

It did, although it took a while.

The Patriots and Texans (4-7) bogged down in a defensive battle that Houston appeared to win when Jamie Sharper's sack forced a punt from the four-yard line. The Texans set up on the outer edge of Kris Brown's field-goal range at the New England 35.

Willie McGinest proceeded to take over, stopping Texan rookie Domanick Davis for no gain, then tackling him for a five-yard loss. Banks fired incomplete on third down and Houston had to punt back to the Patriots, who didn't give up the ball again.

"We talk a lot on our team about hanging in there and playing 60 minutes of football. Today was what, 74?" Patriot Coach Bill Belichick said.

Patriot quarterback Tom Brady completed 29 of 47 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns, but his two interceptions and a lost fumble -- plus a 38-yard miss off the right upright by Vinatieri just before halftime -- kept the Texans in the game. Kevin Faulk had eight catches for 108 yards and 80 yards rushing for New England.

Banks, who helped beat Buffalo, 12-10, last week after Carr was injured in the first quarter, completed only 10 of 25 passes for 93 yards with two touchdowns.

The Patriots outgained the Texans, 472-169, though it didn't show on the scoreboard.

"We never thought that we were out of it the whole game," Texan receiver Jabar Gaffney said. "We were just doing little things to keep ourselves out of it."

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