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Texans fall short of Pats, chance at AFC

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - The Houston Texans vowed this game would be different than their embarrassing, 28-point loss to the Patriots in the regular season.

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Only the margin of victory changed.

The Texans mounted enough offense to avert a repeat of the Dec. 10 blowout that signaled they weren't ready to compete with the defending AFC champions. With a second chance and a spot in the conference title game at stake, they could do little more than keep it close for a half in a 41-28 loss in New England on Sunday.

Danieal Manning returned the opening kickoff 94 yards, but he was brought down at the Patriots 12 and the Texans settled for a field goal. Houston scored 10 points in the final minutes of the first half - but still trailed 17-13.

And, after Matt Schaub moved Houston into New England territory in the fourth quarter with a chance to pull within a touchdown, his floater was intercepted by defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich.

That essentially clinched the game for the Patriots and sent them to their seventh AFC championship game since the 2001 season.

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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