Losing skid ends and playoff berth clinched as Pats top Houston Texans, 27-6

(Box Score)

Not only did the New England Patriots on Sunday continue their mastery of the Houston Texans with a 27-6 win, but they returned to the top of the AFC as well.

Making his return from injury, Rob Gronkowski led all receivers for both teams, with four catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. LeGarrette Blount carried the ball 10 times for 53 yards. Tom Brady was 22 for 30 with 225 yards, two touchdowns and a 116.7 rating.

The Patriots also rebounded from the 14-point-lead woes that troubled them in their past two games against Philadelphia and Denver. Stephen Gostkowski gave the Pats a 14-point lead (20-6) in the third quarter, which the Pats expanded upon with a James White touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

In his first game against the Pats since departing for Houston in free agency, Vince Wilfork was quiet, with two tackles. J.J. Watt also made three tackles -- one of which was for a loss -- while playing with a club due to a broken hand.

Brady's former backup, Brian Hoyer, completed 11 of 22 passes for 155 yards and a 73.1 rating. He was also sacked five times.

With the win, the Pats improve their record to 11-2, and 6-1 all-time against the Texans. By virtue of the Broncos' stunning 15-12 loss to the Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals' 33-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots now stand alone atop the AFC. They return to Foxborough next week for a matchup with Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.

The win also clinches an unsurprising playoff berth for the Patriots -- their 12th appearance in the past 13 seasons.

Follow Rob Riches on Twitter @Riches61