The Hot Corner: Don’t give Pats a pass quite yet

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Forty-two to fourteen.

That was the score of two nationally televised football games of note in the past month.

One was Alabama’s dismantling of Notre Dame in the BCS championship. The other, the New England Patriots’ piledriving of the Houston Texans on a mid-December edition of Monday Night Football.

I only bring up the former because nobody outside Notre Dame’s delusional, bandwagon-burdening, borderline-blasphemous fan base now believes the Fighting Irish could quell the Crimson Tide if they had a hundred chances.

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And so the straw man argument from the pro-Patriots crowd — many of us equally insufferable — is that the Texans don’t stand a chance in hell of springing the upset in today’s AFC divisional playoff.

Right?

You aren’t worried about this game a bit, are you? Only the law of averages persuades you that round two will be a smidge closer than the first encounter. You’ll concede that the Patriots will put this one away by a margin of two touchdowns instead of four.

Pardon me if I don’t purchase any plane tickets to New Orleans or take any beverage orders for parties at my place just yet.

There’s a certain arrogance among Patriots fans, blue hats and pink hats alike, that is conveniently grounded in things that were accomplished 10 years ago.

The “Tawm Brady is the best quahtahback evah” and “in Bill Belichick we trust” crowd tends to throw out recent history in favor of the more convenient backstory.

What the post-three-out-of-four Patriots do as consistently and famously as their bejeweled predecessors is lose playoff games to opponents they’ve already beaten— often overwhelmingly — in the regular season.

None of us need reminders about the historic nights against the East Rutherford Giants that made New England first 16-0, then 18-1, at the end of the 2007 season.

Lest we forget 2009, when a still-rehabbing Brady guided the Patriots to a come-from-behind win over the Ravens in October, only to watch Ray Rice run to the house on the first play from scrimmage and experience the business end of a Baltimore beatdown in January.

Or 2010, when the Pats undressed the Jets 45-3 in Week 13 before dropping a 28-21 divisional-round rematch that wasn’t actually that close.

Every game in those two sequences unfolded at Gillette Stadium. The same place where, no matter how you slice it, the only godsends that prevented a 2011 playoff heartbreak were a dropped pass in the end zone and the worst kick of Billy Cundiff’s life.

Which brings us to the Texans, a team that followed its failure-to-launch in Foxborough with losses to Minnesota and Indianapolis. Houston crashed from top seed to wild card host more quickly than you can say Reliant Stadium.

And that makes it easy to forget they flaunt arguably the second-best running back in the game (Arian Foster), a receiver who is more dangerous than any non-tight end on New England’s roster (Andre Johnson) and the cleats-down AFC defensive player of the year (J.J. Watt).

Their quarterback, Matt Schaub, has looked like a liability since Thanksgiving. But don’t tell me he’s any worse than Joe Flacco or Mark Sanchez before him.

His offensive line might have protection issues, but so does Brady’s. In fact, the Patriots’ front five’s inability to keep No. 12 upright in the postseason has become legendary.

So has the secondary’s failure to stop the pass until they’re backed into the red zone. Don’t give me that bend-but-don’t-break garbage, either. When you live that way in January and February, you eventually get beaten.

Of course the Patriots are the better team, one through 53. Yes, they’re at home, where Brady and Belichick lose about twice in every presidential election cycle.

They should win. But if you think it’s going to be a laugher, give your guffaws a rest.

Houston is limping, yes. Lucky to be here, no.

It would take a lot less than an intervention from Touchdown Jesus to wing the Texans’ flight to a berth in the AFC championship, put it that way.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is koakes@sunjournal.com.

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