(Reuters) - The New England Patriots crushed the conference-leading Houston Texans 42-14 in an AFC showdown to re-establish themselves as the Super Bowl favorites on Monday.
Tom Brady tossed three of his four touchdown passes in the first half, where the home Patriots grabbed a 21-0 lead by halftime, and the New England defense flexed their muscle to deliver a seventh straight victory.
The Patriots (10-3), who won last season's AFC title, moved within a game of Houston for the conference lead. The Texans (11-2) had their six-game win streak snapped and were humbled as they tried to snatch away the reign from New England.
The Patriots set the tone by scoring touchdowns on their first three drives, with Aaron Hernandez catching a pair of TD passes while Brandon Lloyd hauled in a 37-yard score.
Running back Arian Foster, who was held to just 46 yards rushing, had a one-yard score to make it 28-7 in the third but Houston would get no closer.
Brady finished with 296 yards passing and led two more New England TDs in the fourth where the Texans scored in the final couple minutes to lighten the blowout.
(Writing by Jahmal in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
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