- --The only other time the Patriots played at Reliant Stadium was in Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Carolina Panthers. New England won, 32-29, on the second Super Bowl-winning field goal of Adam Vinatieri's career.
That game is noteworthy for being the first Super Bowl involving the Patriots not played at the Super Dome in New Orleans. John Kasay's botched kickoff in the fourth quarter gave New England the ball at its own 40-yard line and set the stage for Vinatieri's winning kick.
- --Though his experience against Houston is limited, Patriots QB Tom Brady did rack up one of his all-time highest yardage totals against the Texans in 2003 at Reliant Stadium. Brady completed 29 of his 47 pass attempts in the overtime victory with two touchdowns, two interceptions and 368 yards.
- --This year's playoff berth adds another notch to the team's success under owner Robert Kraft. Since Kraft purchased the team in 1994, the Patriots have qualified for the playoffs 11 times in 16 seasons with three Super Bowl championships and five conference titles.
By contrast, the Patriots only made the playoffs six times in their 34-year existence prior to Kraft's purchase of the team.
- --On Sunday, the Patriots will play a regular-season game in January for just the seventh time in team history. The Patriots are 5-1 in January in the regular season, with their most recent game coming in 2006 in a 28-26 loss to Miami at Gillette Stadium.
Under Belichick, the Patriots are 3-1 in regular-season games played in January.
- --This year's 8-0 record at Gillette marked the fourth time in team history the Patriots have finished undefeated at home during the regular season.
The first three times they accomplished this feat (2003, 2004 and 2007), they advanced to the Super Bowl. However, they also had home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in each of those three seasons.
- --WR Randy Moss' three-touchdown game was the second time in 2009 that he has had three touchdowns in a game. He also had three against the Tennessee Titans in October. Moss now has nine games in his career with three or more touchdowns, including four games with three or more as a member of the Patriots.
- --Brady posted his team-record third season with more than 4,000 passing yards. Brady was tied with Drew Bledsoe with two 4,000-yard seasons. Brady had 4,110 yards passing in 2005 and a team-record 4,806 passing yards in 2007. He is the ninth NFL player to have three 4,000-yard seasons.
Brady entered the Jacksonville game needing 55 yards to reach the milestone and reached 4,000 yards on a 26-yard touchdown pass to TE Chris Baker in the second quarter. He now has 4,212 yards passing for the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With a playoff berth already wrapped up, there won't be much to watch for Sunday in terms of personnel groupings since the Patriots might rest some of the starters with a wild-card game on deck the following weekend.
Though not quite as drastic, this weekend's game in Houston might be similar to how the Patriots treat their final preseason game each year. Consider this an opportunity for some of the little-used players to lobby for more playing time either in the playoffs or next season.
As usual, Belichick has kept quiet on who will play Sunday and for how long, though it's unlikely Brady will be out there the entire time since he is nursing finger, rib and shoulder injuries that have had an effect on his performance.
With that said, keep an eye on how rookie Brian Hoyer plays in his backup role. Hoyer's performance could determine what the Patriots do in the offseason regarding personnel decisions in anticipation of the 2010 draft, so while this game means little in the standings, it could have an impact on who'll be around the following year.
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