Rob Gronkowski and the Patriots didn't have an easy go of it in Houston Sunday but still came up with the win. Credit: Getty Images
How the Patriots and Texans played out in real time Sunday on CBS:
1:00-Stevan Ridley is inactive for the Patriots, will he see another snap this season?
1:02-This is Gary Kubiak’s first game on the sideline since he had his mini-stroke. What was his rush to return to this dumpster fire?
1:03-Good start for Houston as Keshawn Martin takes the opening kickoff 50 yards to their own 44.
1:04-Five rookies starting on defense for the Patriots, yikes. Dont’a Hightower is back in there for some reason after getting benched last week vs. Denver. We want Dane Fletcher (sadly, I’m serious).
1:05-Texans can’t convert on an easy 3rd down as Case Keenum overthrows Dennis Johnson (not the late Celtics guard). It’s not hard to believe this lifeless team has lost nine in a row entering today.
1:10-With Marcus Cannon out, the Patriots are down to their third right tackle-good old Will Svitek.
1:11-In the blink of an eye, New England goes 3-and-out on their first possession.
1:13-29-yard catch by Andre Johnson who couldn’t have possibly been more open. He follows that up with a 13-yard catch down to the 8. Yeah, why bother covering him? He’s not good or anything and Houston has plenty of weapons left besides him.
1:16-The Patriots run defense is a nightmare or more accurately, it can’t stop anybody. Hello 8-yard TD run by Ben Tate. 7-0 Texans.
1:20-Great diving catch by Julian Edelman, 17 yards for a 1st down.
1:22-Nobody can look more clueless on an NFL sideline than Wade Phillips, it’s a gift really.
1:23-Brady underthrows Rob Gronkowski and Jonathan Joseph picks it off, returning it 31 yards to the New England 31.
1:25-Tate limps to the sideline.
1:27-43-yard field goal by Randy Bullock, 10-0 Texans.
1:29-Huzzah, something positive for the Pats! 41-yard kickoff return by rookie Josh Boyce to New England’s 44.
1:33-16-yard catch by Kenbrell Thompkins, with Aaron Dobson out he needs to have a big game. Ugh, he fell awkwardly on his back/hip and two plays later he limped off the field. Luckily New England has plenty of depth at wide receiver, oh wait.
1:35-23-yard touchdown catch by Gronk. Even though the offensive line gave Brady all day to throw, it was low but Gronk managed to grab it inches off the turf. 10-7 Texans late first quarter. That was Gronkowski’s fourth straight game with a touchdown catch.
1:39-Texans lead 10-7 after the first quarter; all things considered the Pats could be in much worse shape.
1:42-Another 3rd down conversion for the Texans, 11-yard catch by rookie DeAndre Hopkins. 3rd down defense has been a weakness for New England all season.
1:44-27-yard catch by Martin, this is painful.
1:45-Haha 1st sack of the season and as a Patriot for Isaac Sopoaga, 8-yard loss.
1:47-Killer interception thrown by Keenum to Logan Ryan, Houston just gave away at least three points. Keenum held onto the football too long and Andre Carter crushed him from behind when he threw it.
1:49-Thompkins is back on the field, whew.
1:55-Pats get bailed out by Brooks Reed who ran into Brady, helmet-to-helmet after an incompletion on third down. It looked like he was just running by and bumped into him by mistake. Cue the NFL star QB conspiracy theories!
1:57-Woof, Brady concedes a sack on 3rd down when he was about to be creamed. Stephen Gostkowski attempted a season-long 55-yard field goal that predictably drifted wide.
2:00-Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf start waxing poetically about Rob Ninkovich’s beard, I had my fill of that during the Red Sox playoff run but thanks guys.
2:06-20-yard touchdown run by Tate and he only had to break one tackle. Ugh, Houston up 17-7 late first half.
2:13-Whitney Mercilus (one of the best names in the NFL) is down with an injury for the Texans.
2:16-Houston has the market cornered on great names: Eddie Pleasant (Anthony’s little boy?) knocks down a 3rd down pass intended for Gronkowski.
2:17-What is it about the first half? The Patriots turn in another pitiful first 30 minutes and trail 2-9 Houston 17-7 at halftime.
2:32-Hey Danny Amendola is still on the team, 16-yard catch on New England’s 1st play of the second half.
2:33-50-yard catch for Gronkowski, or as Dierdorf calls him “The Gronk.”
2:35-What a run by James Develin-the pride of Brown-for a 1-yard touchdown (first career NFL TD) that cuts it to 17-14 Texans. He bounced off a bunch of tackles, somewhere Ridley fumbles.
2:43-3rd and 1 for Houston, Pats take a timeout but it pays off as they stuff Tate for no gain. New England has all the momentum now.
2:47-17-yard catch by Amendola, nice to see him show up in the second half.
2:48-Edelman is having a good game, beautiful 25-yard catch.
2:50-OK, 9-yard TD catch by Vereen. Gronkowski drew about eight Texans. Patriots have their first lead of the game, 21-17.
2:56-17-yard catch for Garrett Graham. It can’t be a good sign when Keenum is carving you up.
2:59-Patriots are allowing some of the biggest running holes today that I’ve ever seen in an NFL game.
3:00-You always have to account for Keenum’s running ability, wait what? 5-yard TD run puts Houston back on top 24-21 late third quarter.
3:05-14-yard run by Vereen, they gotta get him more touches.
3:07-16-yard catch by Gronkowski, New England has it at Houston’s 35 to end the third quarter. Texans lead 24-21.
3:09-Haha Phillips dials up an all-out blitz so naturally Brady tosses it to Brandon Bolden for an 18-yard gain on a screen pass.
3:15-Money throw by Brady, 8-yards to Edlmen for a 1st down on 3rd down. Next play, 7-yard TD by LeGarrette Blount. Pats take a 28-24 lead early fourth quarter.
3:18-Oh my god, 66-yard catch by Hopkins. Arrington let him go with no safety help behind him. Yeesh.
3:21-10-yard touchdown run by Tate, his third of the game. He should have the entire Pats defense introduce him when he gets inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. 31-28 Texans with 11:35 left in regulation.
3:25-Wow, Patriots are 45-6 in December since 2001. That makes me feel slightly better.
3:26-Good for Dierdorf, getting a laugh at Ridley’s expense as he wonders aloud: “how many fumbles by New England running backs today?”
3:27-11-yard run by Vereen followed by a 12-yard catch by Edelman (9 catches, 101 yards). Neither of these defenses could stop a nose bleed as Bart Scott would conclude.
3:30-53-yard field goal by Gostkowski ties it at 31, somewhere robot Nick Saban weeps and pulls his poor kicker’s scholarship at Alabama.
3:35-Somehow the Patriots get a 3-and-out by the Texans, helped greatly by two drops on easy catches for Graham and Johnson.
3:37-17-yard catch by Gronkowski but he limped off after having his ankle twisted in a tackle (holds breath).
3:41-Wow, gameball to Gostkowski who hit another 53-yard field goal to hand New England a 34-31 lead with 3:12 left. One more play by the Patriots’ defense would clinch it.
3:45-10-yard catch by Johnson on the sideline then 15-yard catch by Johnson after Keenum scrambled to buy time. He has eight catches for 121 yards and that second catch was the 900th of his career. Not bad, in my opinion.
3:48-4th and 12 on their own 43, Keenum gets pressured by Ninkovich and Carter and has nowhere to throw. Houston burned one timeout and now there is only 1:59 left so it is all over. The Patriots will survive this very uneven performance and the Texans will lose their 10th game in a row.
3:56-Patriots hang on 34-31 to clinch their 13th straight winning season. Wins don’t get much uglier than that but they’ll take it as they remain in good shape for the No. 2 seed (and home field) in the AFC and the No. 1 seed is certainly in play if the Broncos lose again. New England hosts the Browns next Sunday afternoon (1, CBS), expect another ugly game against perennially terrible Cleveland.
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate