Patriots-Texans turned into a serious mismatch

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Patriots-Texans turned into a serious mismatch

From Comcast SportsNetFOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Tom Brady can't stop smiling these days. Or winning.Five days after becoming a father for a third time -- something that brings the biggest grin of all to his face -- Brady threw four touchdown passes, leading the Patriots to a 42-14 rout of the Houston Texans.If the game was a measuring stick in the AFC, New England and its star quarterback aced the test with a seventh consecutive victory. Houston failed it."It's a Monday night game," Brady said. "We have played in a lot of big games in December."A matchup of the top two scoring teams in the league was a mismatch from the outset. It took New England (10-3) only one possession to start its scoring barrage as the Patriots surpassed their average of 35.8 points per game."It needs to come together now, this is the perfect time for it," said Brady, whose his wife, Gisele, gave birth to Vivian Lake last Wednesday."She is doing very well," Brady said. "It's been a great week, a great way to end it."So look out. That familiar sight is the Patriots, who already own the AFC East title, romping through December, looking like a Super Bowl team."We can't predict the score but we know we can dominate games," said Devin McCourty, who had a first-quarter interception.They often dominate late in the season; this was their 21st straight victory in the second half of the schedule."It is always good to play in Foxborough in December," linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "When you go out and perform the way you do, I think Foxborough is going to be a tough place for anyone to come and play."The Texans (11-2) discovered that quickly, and now they need to look back at the Patriots gaining on them in the conference standings."We got our tails kicked," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "When you've got an opportunity to make a big play, you can't miss it against a team of this magnitude. We turned around and it was 21-0 pretty quick."Wes Welker's 31-yard punt return and 25-yard reception -- the 107th straight game he's had a catch -- led to Aaron Hernandez's 7-yard score to start the onslaught. That gave Brady 45 consecutive games with a TD pass, third longest in NFL history.It also set the tone.Houston, which had won six straight, threatened on its next series, only to have Matt Schaub force a ball into double coverage in the Patriots' end zone. McCourty picked it off and returned it 19 yards, setting up more pinpoint throws by Brady, who finished 21 of 35.He couldn't miss if he tried in the first quarter, his receivers were so uncovered: Brandon Lloyd for 14 yards, Danny Woodhead for 18, Hernandez for 13, then Lloyd for the 37-yard TD to make it 14-0. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips could only shake his head in disgust at his players' inability to challenge the Patriots.It got worse.At the end of a 70-yard drive helped by a 26-yard interference call on Danieal Manning, no Texans were lined up to Brady's left in front of Hernandez. A quick snap, a quicker pass and the tight end waltzed into the end zone."We've got to look in the mirror at what we did tonight," Kubiak said.New England was headed for its 20th successive home win in December."These guys feel really good about the way they played tonight and they should," coach Bill Belichick said.Houston was headed back home wondering not only how it could measure up to a perennial championship contender in the future, but if it could hold off surging Indianapolis in the AFC South. The Texans have a two-game lead but face the Colts (9-4) on Sunday in Houston, then in the season finale at Indianapolis.Although the Texans have clinched at least a wild-card berth, they haven't had a truly convincing win since October. This was a convincing defeat, however -- although they got on the scoreboard in the third quarter with an 88-yard drive capped by Arian Foster's 1-yard run.But Foster was held to 46 yards on 15 carries.By then the Patriots had scored 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.Brady nearly had a fifth as Woodhead broke free on a screen pass early in the fourth period. Texans standout defensive end J.J. Watt, who was pretty much invisible otherwise, forced a fumble, but the ball soared 11 yards into the end zone, where Lloyd fell on it for a 35-7 lead.Stevan Ridley made it 42-7 with a 14-yard run. The Texans have allowed 42 points in both losses, the other coming against Green Bay on Oct. 14.Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates scored on a 1-yard run with 2:00 remaining to close the scoring.NOTES:Patriots CB Aqib Talib hurt his hip in the second quarter. CB Alfonzo Dennard injured his hamstring. ... New England has won 10 games in each of the last 10 seasons. The record is 16 by San Francisco (1983-98). ... The Patriots have forced turnovers in 24 straight games. ... Hernandez had eight catches for 58 yards, while Houston star wideout Andre Johnson caught eight passes for 95. ... Stallworth's TD was his first for New England since 2007. ... Schaub went 19 for 32 for 232 yards.

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

Miguel Gonzalez can't stop two-out rallies as White Sox fall to Oakland

GLENDALE, Ariz. — His split-fingered fastball could use a little work, but Miguel Gonzalez is ready for the regular season.

The White Sox pitcher allowed four earned runs, all with two outs, in his penultimate Cactus League start on Wednesday. Gonzalez also gave up nine hits as the White Sox lost to the Oakland A’s 5-3 at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm pretty excited for (the regular season)," Gonzalez said. "We all know that spring can be a little long sometimes. But we are here, we are here to work and keep doing what we are doing. We are going to be OK."

Gonzalez allowed two runs each in the first and second innings. Both rallies came with two outs and were a bit of a surprise to the right-hander, who left after 4 1/3 innings. Gonzalez wonders if his split-fingered fastball might not be as sharp as normal because of the dry desert air in Arizona that affects many pitchers.

"It wasn't there today," Gonzalez said. "Not quite as good as I thought it would be. Bullpen I felt really good. Falling behind hitters first two innings. That doesn't really help you, especially a team like this that's very aggressive.

"I'm working on (the splitter). It's fine. I mean it's a little different then it is in Florida. It's not as humid. But you can't think that way. You have to go out there and keep working."

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Melky Cabrera went 1-for-3 with two RBIs for the White Sox. Yolmer Sanchez tripled and homered in the loss. Former White Sox farmhand Frankie Montas struck out four over two scoreless innings to earn the save for Oakland.

The White Sox sent four more players to minor league camp before the game, including reliever Tommy Kahnle. The team sent five players to the minors on Tuesday, including pitcher Carson Fulmer. While Fulmer would love to start the season in the majors, he said it won't hinder him from taking advantage of his time at Triple-A Charlotte.

"Obviously last year getting a taste, it's that dream you've had since you were a kid," Fulmer said. "You want more of it. It's not an addiction in a way. But once you get a taste of it you want more of it. All of us young guys are trying to get back to where we've been. I think time will tell, but I think we'll get a chance here soon and get a chance to create something special."

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks go for season sweep vs. Stars tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Patrick Sharp returns to Chicago.

For the first time this season, Sharp will lace up the skates in the building and city he spent 10 seasons and won three Stanley Cups. He missed the first three meetings of the year due to a concussion, but played in the fourth on Feb. 4 that turned out to be a 5-3 loss for Dallas. The former Blackhawks winger revealed last month that he's been dealing with an undisclosed injury for quite a while that has worsened over time, and will eventually need season-ending surgery, which will likely come when the Stars are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

2. Johnny Oduya faces former team.

Sharp won't be the only one facing his former club tonight. Oduya will face off against the Stars for the first time since being re-acquired by the Blackhawks on Feb. 28 from Dallas, where he spent the last year and a half after signing a two-year contract in the summer of 2015. He was a key part of the team's blue line that won their first division title since 2005-06 last year.

3. Jamie Benn scoring drought.

After scoring 12 goals in his previous 16 games, including three in two games to start March, Benn hasn't scored in six straight, his second-longest drought of the season; his first stretched to nine games from Oct. 20-Nov. 10. It's been a tough season in Dallas, and Benn only recently started looking like the player that finished last season ranked third with 41 goals and second with 89 points. But he's still one of the best players in the league, so don't think a down year makes him any less dangerous on the ice.  

4. Ryan Hartman with a hot stick.

Hartman had been quiet for a little bit, failing to find the back of the net in nine consecutive games. He's been lights out in the last three, where he registered a season-high six shots on goal and scored the game-winning overtime goal in Toronto, and scored two more in Tuesday's 5-4 overtime loss to Vancouver. He's now up to 18 goals on the season, which ranks fifth among all rookies, and all but one have come at even strength. Two more would put him at 20 goals, and would make him the seventh Blackhawks player this season to reach that total.

5. Another successful night coming for the power play?

The Blackhawks took advantage of their six power-play opportunities on Tuesday against Vancouver by cashing in on two of those. They were only 1-for-13 (7.7 percent) in their previous seven games. They're welcoming a Stars team that ranks dead last in the penalty kill department with a 74.0 percentage, and the Blackhawks will look to build off last game's success and keep it rolling.

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