The Patriots have spent the week maintaining that their 42-14 pummeling of the Texans on Dec. 10 has nothing to do with Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game. Bill Belichick went so far as to call any connection between the two "meaningless" and "a bunch of garbage."
It's a lesson that was taught to the Patriots by the Jets.
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In Week 13 of the 2010 regular season, the Patriots beat the Jets, 45-3. Six weeks later, in a divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium, the Jets beat the Pats, 28-21.
It's something the Patriots remember very well, even if they refuse to admit it or even acknowledge it.
"No one has really brought it up," Tom Brady said.
"I promise you we don't think about that," Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch added. "That one hasn't come up at all."
Had it not been a loss to the despised Jets, perhaps the Patriots would be more forthcoming.
Although the Jets were eliminated from playoff contention just about a month ago, they are having an impact on the way the Patriots prepare as well as the way the Texans approach the rematch.
The Jets' rebound is the most recent example of a team overcoming a regular-season embarrassment and finding revenge in the postseason.
It is not a rare occurrence. In the last 30 years, 11 teams have lost a regular-season game by at least 28 points and gone on to face that same opponent in the playoffs. The teams that lost those blowouts are a combined 7-4 in the postseason.
"I think every opportunity to play in this league usually ends up being quite different than what you faced the first time," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.
That's what he hopes, anyway. Belichick knows it from the reviled experience of losing to the Jets.
"The game comes down to teams, the way we match up this weekend, on Sunday," he said. "It doesn't have anything to do with some game that was played this season, last season or some other time. It doesn't matter. It's not this game. The game will have its own elements and it will write its own story. And I don't think any other game has any bearing on this one."