The New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night to advance to their third-straight AFC Championship game. The Patriots rode a dominant ground game that saw them rush the ball a season-record 45 times.
The Colts got within a touchdown in the second half before LeGarrette Blount blew the game open with a 73-yard touchdown run. Blount tied a Patriots team record with 166 yards rushing and set the playoff record for rushing touchdowns (four) in the game.
New England also set a team record with six rushing touchdowns as Tom Brady didn't throw a single touchdown on the night.
The Patriots set the tone early when Alfonzo Dennard (two interceptions) picked off Andrew Luck on the first third down of the game and took it all the way to the two-yard line. LeGarrette Blount would finish it off on the next play to give the Pats an early 7-0 lead and put the Colts in an early hole for the second-straight week.
After a three-and-out by the Colts, Tom Brady put together an impressive drive, with third down throws to Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola, and a big gainer by Julian Edelman. Those set up another two-yard touchdown by Blount, putting the Pats up 14-0 in the first quarter.
The Colts' offense would come to life on their next possession, putting together a seven-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Luck finished it off with a 38-yard touchdown pass to LaVon Brazill to cut the Pats' lead to 14-7.
The Patriots would extend their lead after the teams traded punts with a balanced 75-yard drive that featured some clutch catches by Julian Edelman and all three of their running backs. Blount would pick up a two-yard touchdown for the third time in the first half to put New England up 21-7.
The Colts would respond with another solid drive that stalled, forcing them to settle for a 38-yard field goal by former Patriot Adam Vinatieri.
The Patriots were punting with just over two minutes to go in the half when the snap went over punter Ryan Allen's head and ended up going out of the end zone. The result was a safety, cutting the Patriots lead to 21-12 heading into the second half.
Allen was also injured on the play and would not return, forcing kicker Stephen Gostkowski to take over the punting duties and Tom Brady to take over as the holder.
After forcing a three-and-out by the Patriots to open the second half, the Colts put together an impressive drive. But the Patriots' defense tightened inside their own 10-yard line, forcing the Colts to settle for a 21-yard Vinatieri field goal to make it 21-15.
The Patriots offense would come back to life on their next drive, sparked by a 53-yard pass play to Danny Amendola. Stevan Ridley would take it in for the touchdown and also convert the two-point conversion to put the Pats back up by two touchdowns at 29-15 late in the third quarter.
It would take the Colts just three plays to respond. Luck found TY Hilton for a big play, then found LeVon Brazill for a 35-yard touchdown to cut the Pats lead to just a touchdown.
But LeGarrette Blount would continue his unstoppable play of the last two games with a 73-yard touchdown run to put New England back up by 14, 36-22. It was Blount's franchise-record fourth touchdown of the playoff game, and first that wasn't from two yards out.
Rookie Jamie Collins would continue with his breakout game, picking off Luck on the next Colts' possession, and setting up Stevan Ridley's second touchdown of the game. That gave the Patriots a team-record six rushing touchdowns on the night and extended the Pats' lead to 43-22 early in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots would effectively run the ball on their final possession to drain the clock and kill any chance for another miracle Colts comeback.
New England will either host the San Diego Chargers or travel to Denver to face the Broncos in the AFC Championship.
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