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Texans taking perfect road record to New England

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Texans taking perfect road record to New England

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans are the only NFL team that hasn't lost on the road this season.

The Texans, 6-0 away from Houston, will face a big test Monday night when they travel to New England, a place where a visitor hasn't won in December since 2002.

The Patriots have won 19 straight home games in December, with their last loss at Gillette Stadium in the month coming in a 30-17 setback to the New York Jets on Dec. 22, 2002

The Texans are one of the many teams the Patriots have handled during that streak, with Houston losing 40-7 on Dec. 17, 2006 in its only visit there.

Coach Gary Kubiak said the Texans are playing with confidence and don't panic on the road. He preaches a simple mantra before each road game.

``It's about how you play,'' he said he tells them. ``It's not where you play.''

The Texans (11-1) have already secured a playoff spot, and need a win over the Patriots combined with a loss by the Colts to clinch their second straight AFC South title.

Kubiak likes how Houston has handled the noise on the road and thinks the team pulls together a bit more when faced with such adversity.

``It's really kind of your 53 against 80,000 when you show up,'' he said referring to the road crowds. ``I think they take that as a challenge and they take it personal and they know if they protect the football our team is going to have a good chance to win.''

The Texans have had a great turnover margin away from home this season. They've lost the ball just six times and forced 15 turnovers on the road. Their best performance in that area came last week against the Titans when they didn't turn the ball over and forced Tennessee to cough it up six times.

Monday night's game will be the last of three straight road games for Houston. Although the Texans have won all of their road games, they haven't been without some drama. Four of the six wins have been by a touchdown or less, including their controversial 34-31 overtime victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving.

Officials missed the call on an 81-yard touchdown run by Justin Forsett in that one. But Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag so the play couldn't be reviewed, the touchdown stood and Houston held on for the win.

Houston receiver Andre Johnson said people talk about how close they've come to losing on the road, but that he doesn't listen to any of that.

``We've been able to go out on the road this season and win games no matter the circumstances,'' he said. ``When they ask you your record, they ask how many games you've won and how many games you've lost, not what was the score or anything like that. So whatever we need to do to go in and get the W that's what we'll do.''

A win over the Patriots, who have already clinched the AFC East, would help the Texans maintain the top record in the AFC and move them closer to a coveted first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

But facing Tom Brady and Wes Welker with a banged up secondary will be one of Houston's toughest challenges to date. Top cornerback Johnathan Joseph has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday. Kubiak said how he looks in practice in the next two days will determine whether he plays Monday night.

Along with Joseph's injury, the Texans are also dealing with the loss of nickel cornerback Brice McCain, who had surgery on his left foot on Monday. Alan Ball, who filled in for Joseph two week ago, missed last week's game and is still struggling with a sore foot and didn't practice Thursday.

They signed veteran cornerback Stanford Routt, who was released from the Chiefs last month, to shore up the group. Kubiak said he ``has no choice'' but to suit him up on Monday night, but knows it will be difficult for him to absorb the entire playbook in less than a week.

``He's got a lot of skill,'' Kubiak said. ``In our situation right now he's a veteran player that could help us quickly, and pick up what we're doing quickly. He's covered a lot of good players in this league.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.