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Patriots rout Texans 42-14 in key AFC matchup

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Patriots rout Texans 42-14 in key AFC matchup

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Look out. That familiar sight is the New England Patriots romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team.

The Patriots rolled over Houston 42-14 on Monday night, stamping themselves once again as the team to fear in the AFC - and making the Texans look like pretenders.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 296 yards as New England manhandled the team with the league's best record. The Patriots (10-3), who already own the AFC East title, won their seventh straight and moved one game behind the Texans (11-2) for the conference's top seed.

A matchup of the top two scoring teams in the league was a mismatch from the outset. It took take New England only one possession to start its scoring barrage as the Patriots surpassed their average of 35.8 points per game.

Wes Welker's 31-yard punt return and 25-yard reception - the 107th straight game he's had a catch - led to Aaron Hernandez's 7-yard score. That gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a TD pass, third longest in NFL history.

It also set the tone.

Houston, which had won six straight, threatened on its next series, only to have Matt Schaub force a ball into double coverage in the Patriots' end zone. Devin McCourty picked it off and returned it 19 yards, setting up more pinpoint throws by Brady, who finished 21 of 35.

He couldn't miss if he tried, his receivers were so uncovered: Brandon Lloyd for 14 yards, Danny Woodhead for 18, Hernandez for 13, then Lloyd for the 37-yard TD to make it 14-0. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could only shake his head in disgust at his players' inability to challenge the Patriots.

It got worse. At the end of a 70-yard drive helped by a 26-yard interference call on Danieal Manning, no Texans were lined up to Brady's left in front of Hernandez. A quick snap, a quicker pass and the tight end waltzed into the end zone.

New England was headed for its 20th successive home win in December, and its 21st straight victory in the second half of the schedule.

Houston was headed back home wondering not only how it could measure up to a perennial championship contender in the future, but if it could hold off surging Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Texans have a two-game lead but face the Colts (9-4) on Sunday in Houston, then in the season finale at Indianapolis.

Although the Texans have clinched at least a wild-card berth, they haven't had a truly convincing win since October. This was a convincing defeat, however - although they got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive capped by Arian Foster's 1-yard run.

By then the Patriots had their fourth TD, a gorgeous 63-yard throw to Donte' Stallworth, who was re-signed last week to replace injured Julian Edelman. It gave Brady his 18th game with at least four TD passes, moving ahead of Hall of Famer John Unitas for fourth all time.

Brady nearly had a fifth as Woodhead broke free on a screen pass early in the fourth period. Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt, who was pretty much invisible otherwise, forced a fumble, but the ball soared 11 yards into the end zone, where Lloyd fell on it for a 35-7 lead.

Stevan Ridley made it 42-7 with a 14-yard run. The Texans have allowed 42 points in both losses, the other coming against Green Bay on Oct. 14.

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7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

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USA TODAY Sports

7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

But who is he? 

Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

2. Reirden has been a head coach before

While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

"You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.

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With Barry Trotz out, Jay Gruden is now your longest-tenured major head coach in D.C.

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With Barry Trotz out, Jay Gruden is now your longest-tenured major head coach in D.C.

Jay Gruden is many things, including honest, witty, one of the greatest Arena League quarterbacks in the history of the universe and, as of June 18, the longest-tenured head coach of a major D.C. sports team.

With the Capitals and Barry Trotz parting ways, Gruden is now officially the area's most experienced boss (while Gruden was actually hired a few months before Trotz back in 2014, they both have led their teams through four seasons up to this point, which is the number that matters here).

Scott Brooks, meanwhile, has overseen the Wizards for two campaigns, while Nats manager Dave Martinez is in the middle of his first year at the helm.

This designation will pair nicely with the fact that Gruden will also be the first 'Skins headman to hold his job into a fifth season in the Dan Snyder era. You don't need to make plans to visit his statue yet, of course, but this is some uncharted territory the 51-year-old is currently hanging out in.

Now, his overall record of 28-35-1 certainly needs work, or else he'll be in danger of handing the longest-tenured distinction over to Brooks. However, Gruden does deserve credit for bringing an amount of stability to the Burgundy and Gold, a franchise that is usually as stable as Metro's Wi-Fi connection.

So, with all due respect to DC United's Ben Olsen, the Kastles' Murphy Jensen and whatever legend is in charge of your kid's dynastic flag football team, when you think of the man who's been roaming the sidelines longer than anyone else in D.C., be sure to think of this man and only this man:

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