Dion Lewis endured a tough road back to the field

The Patriots will take the field today against the Texans, with most assuming they will walk over their opponent on their way to the AFC Championship Game. Perhaps.

But they will also do so with a player whose presence all-but-guarantees it.

Running back Dion Lewis, who began the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, has not lost a game as a Patriot over two seasons. The change-of-pace runner is back as a key weapon for the team -- but it's how he got back here that's interesting.

His path has been painful.

Lewis was cruising through Week 9 in 2015 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. But that injury was the start of a long road for Lewis.

According to sources informed of his health, Lewis had his ACL repaired by Dr. James Andrews' team and it healed fine. But the way the bone graft was done, it created a huge stress point in the knee cap from the old ACL. One piece of bone attached to the ACL graft was apparently too large, causing problems.

The issue, sources say, was that Lewis developed a fracture from where the old ligament was taken. Essentially, because of the pressure, the knee cap broke, and Lewis had to have his patella fracture fixed.

Lewis had screws inserted into his patella to heal the fracture. Then, he had to wait until it was healed to begin working out.

Instead of the standard nine months or so to return from an ACL surgery, Lewis waited several more months of a grueling, painful rehab -- far worse than imagined.

But now that he's back, the Patriots have reaped the benefits.

Lewis has averaged 4.4 yards per rush on 64 carries in 7 games, to go with 17 catches for 94 yards. And the team still hasn't lost with him.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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