FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Look out. That familiar sight is the Patriots romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team.
New England rolled over Houston 42-14 on Monday night, looking once again like 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 AFC East champion Patriots won their seventh straight and moved one game behind the Texans for the conference's top seed.
A matchup of the league's top scoring teams was a mismatch from the outset. It took only one drive to start the 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 has 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.
New England was headed for its 20th successive home win in December, and its 21st straight victory in the second half of the schedule.
Even a splash play by the Texans defense came out in New England's favor.
In the fourth quarter, Patriots running back Danny Woodhead took a short pass from Brady and turned it upfield, only to have defensive end J.J. Watt force a fumble around the Houston 10-yard line. But the ball bounced into the end zone, right to Patriots receiver Brandon Lloyd, who fell on it for an easy touchdown and a 35-7 lead.
Though the Texans have clinched at least a wild-card berth, they haven't had a truly convincing win since October. 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. According to Elias it was Brady's 14th four-TD game without an interception, a league record.
Houston allowed 42 points in both losses, the other coming Oct. 14 against Green Bay.