After several lackluster performances in recent weeks, the Patriots showed signs of improvement yesterday as they beat up on the lackluster Houston Texans, 40-7 in the regular season home finale at Gillette Stadium.

Scott Benson notes on the BSMW Game Day page that the Patriots “showed some incremental gain” in their effort to right their ship as the season winds down. Ian Clark looks at the Patriots getting some redemption after the debacle in Miami last week. Mike Reiss notes the mood in the locker room was happy, though not “over-the-top” elation, as the team feels they have much still to prove and accomplish. Shalise Manza Young notes “what a difference seven days can make.” Albert Breer says this was the first complete game that the Patriots have played all season. Alan Greenberg says that the 40 points on the scoreboard for the Patriots is misleading as the offense struggled all day. John Tomase says that the Patriots can awake this morning feeling much better about themselves than they did last Monday. Michael Parente has the playoff express steaming through Gillette yesterday with the Texans left standing on the tracks. Rich Garven says that regardless of the score, there are still plenty of questions about the Patriots’ offense. Mike Lowe writes that despite the dominance, “the road to the playoffs is still lined with yellow “Caution” signs.” Tom King says yesterday was equal to having a second bye week for the Patriots.

Christopher Price lists out his 10 Things We Learned Yesterday. Ron Borges says that yesterday’s win was not as important for what the Patriots did during the game, as much as it was for what they did NOT do. Michael Felger says that this was not merely a worthless win over a hapless opponent, this performance was needed and encouraging in some key aspects. On the other hand, Tony Massarotti continues his season-long quest to find the worst in any situation involving the Patriots. Jackie MacMullan says that the Patriots came into this one hell bent on winning and winning big, and the Texans were the perfect opponent for that outcome. Jim Donaldson says that sure, the Patriots looked good today, but we have no idea how they’ll look next week. Karen Guregian observes that for this game anyway, the Patriots listened to their quarterback and coach, and everyone was on the same page. Lenny Megliola notes that only one team really showed up yesterday, as the Patriots absolutely dominated the mistake prone Texans. Dan Pires notes that this was a dominating effort on defense and special teams, but the margin of victory should’ve been much bigger.

Amalie Benjamin has Tully Banta-Cain growing nicely into his role as a starting linebacker for the Patriots, as evidenced by his two sacks yesterday. While the fourth year pro still needs to work on consistency, he has made strides towards becoming a playmaker for the defense. Paul Kenyon has Kevin Faulk being unable to enjoy his two touchdown game because of an injury to his right leg that had him limping heavily and required medical treatment right after the game. Christopher L Gasper has more on Faulk, whom he says began the game with a bang, and ended it as a limper. Dan Ventura has more on Faulk, who seems to have paid a heavy price for his big day. Breer has the offensive line giving Brady plenty of time, and keeping to their vow not to talk afterwards.

Bob Duffy looks at a big day for Ellis Hobbs yesterday, giving him a day to enjoy in what has been a long season. Kenyon also has Hobbs turning things around for himself with a couple of huge plays yesterday – an interception and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jennifer Toland writes about Hobbs having a big day a week after losing his starting cornerback job to Chad Scott in the Miami game. Tim Weisberg looks at Hobbs killing whatever momentum Houston had gained after their first score with his kickoff return for a TD. Ventura had more on Hobbs, who had plenty of reasons to talk yesterday. Greenberg looks at the Patriots youngsters stepping in and having quite a day for themselves. Steve Solloway looks at Patriots going down all season, and others stepping up to fill their place. Chris Ryan says that the Patriots got the big plays they were looking for, but the division title still has to wait at least another week.

Joe McDonald offers up his game analysis, taking a look at the action on all sides of the football. Greenberg has his Patriots sidelines report, which looks at the same areas. McDonald also has a look the first quarter interceptions, which he labels as the key plays of the game in the victory. The Herald puts the screen pass to Faulk that resulted in a TD as their play of the game. Massarotti lists the best and worst from the afternoon. McDonald tabs Tully Banta-Cain as the player of the game yesterday. Following up on his things to watch from Sunday, Felger notes that the Patriots didn’t need to worry about the Carr bootlegs yesterday afternoon after all.

Check the Texans side of the ledger in the Houston Chronicle.

Tomase’s notebook reports on a few injuries for the Patriots, with Faulk, Mike Vrabel and Ken Walter among the nicked up veterans in the locker room. Reiss’ notebook has Brady pleased with his club’s effort and response to his strong statements earlier in the week. Parente’s notebook has Ellis Hobbs making plays for the Patriots, just as he had vowed to do. Garven’s notebook chronicles a special day for the Patriots special teams. Weisberg’s notebook says that the injury to Faulk will result in an even heavier load for Corey Dillon next week against Jacksonville. Lowe’s notebook says that the huge margin of victory yesterday was due to the little things. King’s notebook has Ellis Hobbs fighting back from a reduced role.


Nick Cafardo has a quick Red Sox notebook, looking at the club getting a second opinion on the J.D. Drew physical. More noteworthy is the fact that Nick gets through the piece without typing the words “Roger Clemens.” Michael Silverman also has a quick update on the Drew deal.

Steve Bulpett examines the Celtics transformation from the Greg Oden sweepstakes to possible playoff team. Shira Springer notes that defense and chemistry have been responsible for the Celtics turnaround. Over on the FSN Nothing But Net blog, we have a look at possible reasons why the Celtics youngsters seem to have suddenly “got it.” Tim Weisberg says that Saturday night’s fight at Madison Square Garden is another black eye for the NBA.

Stephen Harris talks to Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli about the many empty seats at the club’s home games and what it is going to take to get the fans back. Fluto Shinzawa notes that the Bruins still need work on killing penalties. Mick Colageo has a roundup of Bruins and Hockey-related books which might make good gifts for fans.

David Scott wasn’t impressed with the NFL Network’s broadcast of the Cowboys/Falcons game on Saturday night, calling it the “all-time worst, American, professional TV broadcast.”

ESPN has Colts/Bengals at 8:30. Versus has Red Wings/Blue Jackets at 7:00.