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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback in postseason play, throwing for three touchdowns Sunday to beat Houston 41-28 and lift the New England Patriots into the AFC championship game.
Brady got his 17th victory, surpassing his childhood hero, Joe Montana, by throwing for 344 yards. Seldom-used running back Shane Vereen scored three times, twice on receptions.
If Brady can lead the Patriots (13-4) past Baltimore (12-6) in next Sunday's conference title game, then win the Super Bowl, he'll equal the 49ers' Hall of Famer for NFL championships.
The Patriots and Ravens will be meeting for the AFC title for the second straight year. Baltimore, which stunned top-seeded Denver in double overtime Saturday, lost 23-20 at Gillette Stadium last January.
Houston (13-5) performed far better than in a 42-14 loss here last month. But the Texans couldn't slow down Brady.
The Patriots overcame a 94-yard return by Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff thanks to Brady and Vereen and led 31-13 after three quarters.
Shayne Graham kicked a 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half after a short punt by Zoltan Mesko gave the Texans the ball at their 38-yard line. That cut the lead to 17-13.
But the Patriots (12-4) scored on two of their three series in the third quarter on an 8-yard run by Stevan Ridley and a 5-yard pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd.