By Michael Vega, Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH --- Don't assume that what once worked for the Patriots in a 42-14 romp over the Texans Dec. 10 is likely to work again when the teams square off in the AFC divisional playoffs Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters Wednesday he is certainly making no such assumptions in the rematch with the AFC South champions.
"It's about creating a game plan you feel like will be successful against the team you're playing,'' Belichick said. "The way certain players matched up in the first game ... you don't know if they're going to run the same plays or if we're going to run the same plays.
"Game plan-wise, you can fundamentally take a similar approach if a certain type of player or a certain scheme or a certain style is successful. But if you can't continue to do that, maybe if it's formatted a little bit differently or if there's some modificiations, whatever it is. But as far as specific plays ... I think that's ridiculous.''
Given all that is at stake, and the heightened sense of urgency to advance now that the team has entered the playoffs, Belichick was not likely to take a conservative approach against the Texans.
"Of course, you don't win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it,'' he said. "You have to go out there and attack. You have to make plays you need to make to win.''
One of the keys in the Patriots' regular-season romp over the Texans was New England's ability to stymie Houston's pass rush. However, Belichick suggested it was more a function of the wide receivers' ability to defeat Houston's man-to-man coverage.
"Any time you can't get away from man-to-man coverage, it puts a lot of pressure on your pass protection and you can't get the ball off,'' Belichick said. "Houston is a man-to-man team and they play man-to-man coverage. If that's what they play against us, we'll have to beat it.
"If they don't [play man-to-man], we'll have to beat zone coverage and we'll have to have good spacing with our receivers and find the open areas. But they're a good man-to-man team and they play quite a bit of it and they've won 13 games with it and I'm sure we'll see it.
"But, of course, catching the ball is also important. We dropped five passes in the first game. It doesn't matter if you're open or not if you don't catch the ball."