NFL: Patriots secure playoff place

The New England Patriots bounced back from successive defeats to beat the Houston Texans 27-6 and secure a play-off place.

Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes as the Patriots improved their record to 11-2 and put themselves in position to claim a first-round bye in the AFC, where they are the only team guaranteed post-season play.

Brady had Rob Gronkowski back among his offensive weapons, and they linked up for a 45-yard gain in the first quarter on a drive that ended with Keshawn Martin catching a two-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.

The Patriots led 10-6 as half-time approached, Nick Novak having booted two field goals for Houston either side of a successful kick from New England’s Stephen Gostkowski.

But the reigning Super Bowl champions broke the game open seconds before the interval as Brady marched them down the field and capped a fine drive with a one-yard pass to Gronkowski.

Gostkowski scored the only points of the third quarter with his second successful field goal and, with Houston stagnant on offence, James White made sure of victory with a two-yard rushing score in the closing stages.

Coach Bill Belichick was full of praise for his defence.

“These guys did a good job, they really did,” Belichick said. “We played a lot of different people as we’ve been doing on the front.

“Our linebackers did their job, they did coverage. We gave up three big plays, but on a down-in, down-out basis, I thought we competed well, tackled pretty well and we were able to get off the field on third down.”