Raiders

Lewis' historic performance leads Patriots past Texans, into AFC title game

Lewis' historic performance leads Patriots past Texans, into AFC title game

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are headed back to a familiar spot: the AFC championship game.

Dion Lewis had a 13-yard touchdown reception , a 98-yard kickoff return for a score, and a late 1-yard touchdown to help the Patriots hold off the Houston Texans 34-16 on Saturday night and advance to an NFL-record sixth straight conference title game.

Lewis became the fifth Patriots player to score three touchdowns in a playoff game. He's also the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a rush, a catch and a kick return in a postseason game.

The Patriots (15-2) survived a gritty effort by the Texans' top-ranked defense, which intercepted Brady twice. Houston's special teams also forced a third turnover.

But the Texans (10-8) couldn't find enough traction on offense to take full advantage of the Patriots' mistakes, settling for field goals on both of Brady's picks.

New England led just 17-13 at the half, but pushed its lead to 24-13 early in the third quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brady to James White.

Houston's Brock Osweiler was intercepted three times after that, and the Texans managed only a field goal the rest of game.

It was the first breakout game of the season for Lewis, who spent the first eight games of the season on injured reserve recovering from offseason surgery on his left knee.

Brady finished 18 of 38 for 287 yards and two touchdowns and was showered with chants of "MVP! MVP!" and "Brady! Brady!" late in the game. Julian Edelman was Brady's most dependable target, catching eight passes for 137 yards.

Osweiler was just 23 of 40 for 198 yards with the two turnovers.

When New England did have the ball in the first half, it gave Houston a steady diet of Lewis early with LeGarrette Blount coming off an illness that limited him during practice this week.

Without Blount to contend with, the Texans applied pressure to Brady.

A.J. Bouye intercepted a slightly overthrown ball by Brady late in the first quarter on a pass that bounced out of the hands of receiver Michael Floyd. That led to a 27-yard field goal that cut New England's lead to 14-6.

On the ensuing kickoff, Lewis coughed up the ball on a hit from Akeem DentEddie Pleasant fell on it at the Patriots 12, and two plays later, Brock Osweiler hit C.J. Fiedorowicz from 8 yards out to cut the deficit to 14-13.

Brady only threw two interceptions during the regular season. With his 28 touchdown passes, that was the lowest touchdown to interception ratio in NFL history.

CLOWN TIME IS OVER:
Jadeveon Clowney was in Brady's face all game, flattening him in the first half with a legal hit and bringing him down a couple of times in the second on plays that were a little more questionable.

In the third quarter, Brady was chased out of the pocket before heaving the ball downfield. Clowney dragged him to the turf, and Brady came up kicking. The Patriots quarterback made his case to the referee, but no penalty was called.

Early in the fourth, though Clowney was called for roughing the passer for Brady after he got rid of the ball and while he was in the clutches of defensive end Christian Covington.

PILING UP POINTS:
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski continues to climb the NFL's career postseason scoring list.

He made an extra point in the first quarter to pass Rice and move into third place on the league's career list. It was Gostkowski's 133rd postseason point, breaking a tie with the San Francisco 49ers receiver.

Next up are kickers Gary Anderson, David Akers and all-time leader Adam Vinatieri, who had half of his 234 career postseason points with New England before moving on to the Indianapolis Colts.

INJURIES:
Texans: RB Tyler Ervin left in the second quarter with a concussion. Defensive end Joel Heath exited in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

Patriots: WR Chris Hogan left in the third quarter with a thigh injury.

UP NEXT:
Texans: End of season.

Patriots: Will host either Pittsburgh or Kansas City in next week's AFC title game.

Raiders QB Derek Carr appreciates Mark Davis’ vote confidence

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Raiders QB Derek Carr appreciates Mark Davis’ vote confidence

ALAMEDA – Derek Carr can do no right these days. The Raiders quarterback either pushes the ball downfield in an unsafe manner or checks down so often playing it safe.

Such is life as the face of a franchise that can’t buy a win. Focus has honed on Carr’s every move this season after years sharing the spotlight with Khalil Mack and, to a lesser extent, Amari Cooper. Those guys have been traded, leaving Carr and the lightning rod for criticism among the players. His hefty paycheck doesn’t help matters much, as he struggles to score steadily and orchestrate Jon Grduen’s offense well.

Raiders owner Mark Davis recognizes this, and defended his quarterback in a Sunday interview with ESPN.

"Derek's taking a lot of s--- right now," Davis said. "He is the franchise quarterback right now. He doesn't have Amari Cooper. He lost (Martavis) Bryant to a knee injury today. Guys have been getting hurt. Who's he throwing to? Jordy Nelson and Seth Roberts, which are good guys. But they're not putting the fear of God in anybody. The tight end (Jared Cook) is playing his ass off. You look at the quarterback and he's playing behind a battered offensive line ... so I don't know what you can put on Derek and I don't think it's fair to put all the blame on him."

Davis is right. The Raiders offensive struggles are not all on Carr. The offensive line’s less reliable than any point in the last few seasons. The skill spots aren’t as strong, especially with Cooper gone and Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve.

Fan frustrations are largely taken out on Gruden, and the man making the most money. That’s Carr. The signal caller was thankful for the vote of confidence but was far more interested in giving his owner and Raider Nation what they really want.

“It just is what it is. It’s nice words,” Carr said Wednesday. “He’s just telling the truth, man. He’s not one to sugar coat things. It hasn’t been easy, but there’s no excuse. I still hold myself to a standard. Whether he calls me and tells me those things, I still say, ‘But I could’ve done this or this. I could keep doing this.’ He keeps having my back. He keeps telling what everyone keeps telling me inside (the building). I just go by what they say. For him to say that, it feels good.

It’s nice, but at the same time I just want to win. The words are nice and it means a lot. I don’t want to take anything away from that. But at the end of the day I wake up early, I work my tail off, grind myself to sleep until tonight because I just want to win. It feels good, but winning is definitely better.”

 

Raiders-Cardinals injury report: Justin Ellis still isn't practicing with team

Raiders-Cardinals injury report: Justin Ellis still isn't practicing with team

ALAMEDA – Justin Ellis was out on the field during Raiders practice, but the veteran defensive tackle was still working on the side with a trainer.

He hasn’t been designated to return off injured reserve yet as expected. His recovery from a foot injury sustained in the season opener needs more time to complete. He was eligible to start practice after Week 6, but wasn’t ready then and still isn’t now.

After a player is designated to return, he can practice for 21 days before being placed on the 53-man roster. A team could also choose to end his season if he’s not deemed ready. This makes it unlikely Ellis return to game action in the next few weeks.

Ellis would help a porous Raiders run defense, but just isn’t ready yet.

The Raiders also won’t have defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who had his practice window close without being taken off the physically unable to perform list.

The Raiders are thin at receiver as well, with Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson sidelined with knee injuries.

Raiders practice report

WEDNESDAY
Did not practice

WR Martavis Bryant (knee)
WR Jordy Nelson (knee)

Limited practice
CB Gareon Conley (groin)
LB Kyle Wilber (knee)
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
LG Kelechi Osemele (knee)
CB Daryl Worley (shoulder)

Full practice
RG Gabe Jackson (pectoral)
OL Jon Feliciano (ribs)
LT Kolton Miller (knee/elbow)
WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder)
RB Doug Martin (hip)

Cardinals practice report

WEDNESDAY
Did not practice
S Budda Baker (knee)
K Phil Dawson (hip)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (not injury related)
S Rudy Ford (heel)
DT Rodney Gunter (not injury related)
OL DJ Humphries (knee)
OL Mike Iupati (back)
DT Robert Nkemdiche (calf)
WR Chad Williams (ankle)

Limited practice
LB Josh Bynes (wrist)
DT Corey Peters (heel)
OL Jeremy Vujnovich (hamstring)