FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It may have been a night when the New England Patriots showed a national audience that they are still the class of the AFC, but for one player, the game meant just a little bit more than that.
The past five years for Patriots wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, who first arrived in New England in 2007, have been far from ordinary. Just over a year after losing Super Bowl XLII and leaving the Patriots through free agency, Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter, spent 24 days in jail and served a full-season suspension imposed by the NFL.
Returning to the NFL in 2010, Stallworth's journey took him back to New England this past spring, but he was unable to make it past final cuts following the preseason. He spent the first 13 weeks of this season out of football before the Patriots re-signed him last Monday.
"It was really good just being back around the guys, with the fellas," Stallworth said after Monday night's game. "It's been a good week. I wanted to come in and make sure that I was prepared. I've been studying hard all week."
More than five years after catching his last touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady, the 32-year-old Stallworth hauled in a 63-yard touchdown reception in the Patriots' 42-17 rout of the Houston Texans on Monday night.
The third-quarter play was one that Stallworth said the Patriots had worked on in the spring, taking advantage of the Texans lacking a deep safety on the play.
"It looked like they were Cover-0 or Cover-1. We got to the line so fast and snapped the ball," Stallworth said. "It was just an opportunity where they were kind of flat-footed."
It wasn't the only big play for the Patriots in their win, with fellow receiver Brandon Lloyd scoring on a 37-yard strike from Brady in the first quarter.
"I thought our play-action game helped us," coach Bill Belichick said. "We hit a couple deep balls against them and that's always good when you can get a lot of yards in one play, you don't have to drive it 12, 14 plays."
Stallworth made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch, but also had to win a footrace to the end zone, which he just barely did.
"(The coverage) gave me an opportunity just to run by the guy and Tommy (Brady) made a great throw, put it up for me to catch it, and that's what I did," he said.