Patriots pound Colts, advance to AFC Championship game
There was torrential rain, field goal kickers who were punting, quarterbacks who were holding, a record-setting rushing performance, and a safety.
And when the final whistle blew, the Patriots had a 43-22 win over the Colts. Yes, the Pats are going back to the AFC Championship game for the third straight year.
This won’t go down as one of Tom Brady’s best performances, but it didn’t have to be. The ground game took care of that. Brady finished the game just 13-of-25 for 198 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Could he have thrown a couple touchdowns with the team close to the goal line? Sure. But instead the ball went to the backs.
LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns, and Steven Ridley also scored two touchdowns.
Julian Edelman led Pats receivers with six receptions for 84 yards, and Danny Amendola added 77 yards on three catches, including a 52-yarder.
The Patriots lost punter Ryan Allen for the game after he was injured while trying to recover a botched snap. Stephen Gostkowski did a commendable job in Allen’s place.
The Patriots will play either the Broncos or Chargers, who play each other Sunday at 4:40 p.m. in Denver. If the Broncos win, the Pats will head to Denver. If San Diego pulls off the upset, New England will host the AFC Championship game, scheduled for 3 p.m. on Jan. 19.
In Metro’s preview, we said to look for Bill Belichick to utilize the their deep rushing attack. It appears that Bill Belichick is a Metro reader. The Patriots used their backs from the start, in a rainy and wet Gillette Stadium Saturday night. And just like the rain, the Pats poured it on in the end. This was Blount’s first career playoff game, and if that isn’t memorable enough to begin with, he scored four – yes, four – touchdowns, and ran for 166 yards. The first three TDs came in the first half, but the biggest one of all came in the fourth quarter with the Patriots up by a touchdown. Blount broke free for a 73-yard score, putting the Patriots up, 36-22, and New England never looked back. Blount didn’t do it alone, though. Stevan Ridley added two touchdowns of his own in the second half in another turnover-free game for him.
Andrew Luck looked like a second-year quarterback in this one. He threw a pick deep in his own territory on his second pass attempt of the game, which led to a Pats touchdown on the next play. On the day, Luck went 20-for-41 for 330 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. With Brandon Spikes put on IR, New England needed players to step in. Enter Jamie Collins. Collins was everywhere for New England, finishing with six tackles, a sack, multiple tackles for losses, and a big interception in the fourth quarter. New England’s secondary did a commendable job limiting T.Y. Hilton, aside from a couple of great grabs he made. Hilton finished with 103 yards but just four receptions. Lavon Brazill also made a couple of nice catches, and scored two touchdowns for Indy. Alfonzo Dennard had two interceptions – one to start the game and one to end it – and Dont’a Hightower also picked one off.
It’s too soon to know how serious Allen’s shoulder injury is, but the obvious hope is that he’ll be good to go for next Sunday. Allen injured the shoulder after being tackled while recovering a botched long snap. The good news is that it’s not a leg injury. The bad news is that it was a bad enough shoulder injury that he couldn’t return. Gostkowski punted five times for the Pats, averaging 41.8 yards per punt. His final 26-yard punt that landed in the end zone lowered that average. But Gostkowski didn’t attempt a field goal in this one, and it’s unclear how punting would affect his field goal kicking. Allen had a great rookie season for the Pats, and losing him would hurt. The Patriots will have to make a roster move if they feel Allen may not be able to go next Sunday.