FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Short nights and short offseasons.
It's the Patriot way.
New England has advanced to the AFC Championship Game for a record sixth year in a row and the 11th time in 16 seasons. With one more win, the Patriots would play in their seventh Super Bowl since 2001.
But to find out who was still in their way, they had to wait until Sunday's game between the Chiefs and Steelers. That's also something they've grown accustomed to in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.
"It was a long night — or a short night, however you want to look at it," Belichick told reporters Sunday, about 13 hours after beating the Texans 34-16.
"We have people on our staff that work on our next opponent, just like we always do. This one's a little tougher because we're working on two teams instead of one, but they've just worked harder and gotten it done."
Brady completed 18 of 38 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns in the divisional round victory over Houston. He also threw two interceptions — as many as he had all season.
Dion Lewis had three touchdowns — one running, one on a pass reception and a 98-yard kickoff return — but fumbled another return and helped the Texans stay in the game.
So the Patriots don't have to look too far to find things to work on this week.
"There are some things I could do a lot better on, protect the ball. I put my team in jeopardy," said Lewis, who is the first player in the Super Bowl era to score on a run, catch and kickoff. "We have a lot of work to do. We made a lot of mistakes. I'm glad we got a win, but in order to advance next week, we've got to play a lot better."
WILFORK DONE? Texans defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said after Saturday's loss to the Patriots that he's leaning toward retirement. "No emotions and I will take my time and think about it. I think I have played my last NFL football game," said Wilfork, 35, a 13-year veteran. "I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back to see if I really want to retire."
HESTER, TOO? Return specialist Devin Hester, 34, said after the Seahawks' loss to the Falcons on Saturday that he had probably played his last game after 11 seasons. "I told my wife this is pretty much my last year," the former Hurricanes standout said.
FALCONS LOSE CLAYBORN: Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn suffered a torn biceps Saturday, and the former Bucs first-round pick will miss the rest of the playoffs.
SAFETY PLOTS RETURN: Despite concerns raised after sustaining season-ending neck injuries in consecutive years, Bills starting safety Aaron Williams is preparing to resume his playing career, his father said. "He's leaning toward coming back," Anthony Williams said. "We'll take it slow and go from there."
BRONCOS: Secondary coach Joe Woods was promoted to defensive coordinator, replacing Wade Phillips, whose contract was not renewed.
49ERS: The team interviewed Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable for its head coaching vacancy.