Andrew Luck tried to rally the Colts for another comeback, but Jamie Collins and the Patriots defense wouldn't allow the horses to get out of the gate. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley finished the Colts off as the Patriots racked up six rushing touchdowns on the way to a 43-22 victory.
Here are the complete roster grades from the divisional playoffs.
Note: Players are graded on the standard scale. Higher grades are given for splash plays, proper technique and good decisions based on the game situation. Conversely, lower grades are given for turnovers, improper technique and blown assignments.
Tom Brady: B+
Brady didn't have to win this game by himself. He was asked to manage the game and keep the defense honest by occasionally throwing the ball. He ended the day 13-of-25 for 198 yards with zero touchdowns and—more importantly—zero interceptions.
The New England Patriots have shown that unless you stop the run, they are content to chew up five to six yards at a time and control the ball.
LeGarrette Blount: A+
Blount finished with 166 yards on 24 carries and totaled four touchdowns on the day. It was an impressive performance to say the least. Doug Kyed from NESN.com relayed Blount's thoughts after the game:
Blount had three two-yard scores in Saturday night’s game against the Colts alone. There’s little to no chance that would have happened as recently as the first half of the season. Then, Blount got some sage advice from head coach Bill Belichick.
“Bill told me — he said the only thing I wasn’t doing right was running with a lower pad level,” Blount said. “So, I changed that and I started breaking more tackles, started getting a lot of extra yardage after contact.”
That’s all it took. That’s the only thing Blount would credit with his distinct turnaround this season. If only someone had told Blount to do that earlier in his career. “Yeah, I wish they would have told me a long time ago,” Blount said. “Who knows what could have happened.”
Blount has proved to be a sledgehammer for New England. Eventually, he is going to break the rock and make a big play.
Stevan Ridley: A
Ridley didn't have a long run like Blount, but his bruising interior runs kept the chains moving. Ridley notched two touchdowns on the day and was clean in his ball-handling.
Shane Vereen: B-
Vereen was only able to haul in two catches on six targets. He gets open with ease, but his hands are still catching up with his feet. The wheel route is so dangerous, but Vereen has to start making those catches.
James Develin: C+
Develin was a force as a blocker but failed to convert a first down or touchdown for the first time when carrying the ball this season.
Julian Edelman: A
Targeted nine times, Edelman totaled 84 yards on six catches. He continues to be the most consistent receiver in this offense. It will be very interesting to see if the Patriots can muster up enough cap space to sign Edelman this offseason.
Danny Amendola: A-
Amendola caught three of the five balls thrown his way, including a 53-yard streak from Tom Brady. He clearly isn't 100 percent—the pre-injury explosiveness isn't there—but he has been a warrior for New England.
Austin Collie: B-
One target. One catch. One first down. Another day at the office for Austin Collie.
Kenbrell Thompkins: I
Aaron Dobson: I
Thompkins left the game with an apparent head injury. Dobson was inactive due to a foot injury.
Michael Hoomanawanui: C+
Hoomanawanui caught—after an initial bobble—the only ball thrown his way and was able to contribute in the running game. He was a bit overmatched when asked to pass block.
Matthew Mulligan: C+
Mulligan wasn't targeted by Brady but was a key part of the running attack. His blocking has been very good this year.
Nate Solder: A
Logan Mankins: A+
Ryan Wendell: B+
Dan Connolly: A
Marcus Cannon: B+
When your running backs total 235 yards—excluding Tom Brady's kneel—you know that the offensive line has had a good day.
Mankins had an incredible day coming off an injury in Week 17, while Dan Connolly and Nate Solder each executed their assignments without much trouble.
Marcus Cannon and Ryan Wendell each had some trouble blocking for Brady, but their contributions in the running game more than made up for it.
Sealver Siliga: B+
Siliga was again the best interior defender for New England. He kept blockers at bay—keeping them off of the linebackers—and got some occasional pressure when rushing the quarterback.
Joe Vellano: B+
Vellano was also stout against the run, anchoring well against the interior offensive line of Indianapolis. He also registered a sack on Andrew Luck, although he could have been called for a tripping penalty.
Rob Ninkovich: B
Ninkovich notched five total pressures when rushing Luck but wasn't able to provide the impact plays he is known for. He ended the day with just one tackle.
Chandler Jones: B
Jones registered six pressures—including two hits on Andrew Luck—but wasn't able to finish the play and bring him down. He also lost contain on a couple of occasions, allowing big gains for the Colts.
Chris Jones: B-
Jones was able to sack Luck once on the day but wasn't able to bring consistent pressure inside. Jones added three tackles in the running game.
Andre Carter: C-
Carter rushed the quarterback 22 times but failed to record a pressure. That isn't the sort of production that the Patriots were looking for when they brought him in as a free agent.
Jamie Collins: A+
Collins was the most dominant player on the field. He played all 66 snaps and was productive throughout. He intercepted a pass, had two tackles for loss and recorded an impressive sack after bounding over Trent Richardson. He rushed the passer just nine times but was able to pressure Luck five times.
Collins wasn't overly concerned with the change from the regular season to the playoffs. “It was kind of a difference but like I said, every game is the same to me. Just go out there, do what you have to
do, and hopefully it comes out on the positive end,” Collins stated in a postgame press conference.
Hightower continued his fantastic play, notching eight tackles and making a nice play on a tipped ball for his first interception of the year. With Collins and Hightower, the Patriots didn't miss Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo for a second against the Colts.
Dane Fletcher: B-
Fletcher only was on the field for 16 snaps and didn't play much of a factor in the game with Hightower and Collins stealing all the glory. Fletcher totaled two tackles on the day.
Alfonzo Dennard: A-
Dennard picked off two of Andrew Luck's passes and nearly hauled in a third. He gave up a long touchdown but was victimized by a perfect throw and a good route. He added two tackles for good measure.
Devin McCourty: B+
McCourty was manipulated by Luck twice, resulting in touchdowns on both accounts. McCourty was solid in run support and was in perfect position on nearly every other play. He has great range, so the two miscues were probably more of a result of good quarterbacking and not so much on bad safety play.
Aqib Talib: B+
Talib shadowed T.Y. Hilton for the majority of the day and gave up two catches on three targets. It wasn't Talib's best day, but he was up to the task of containing Hilton.
Logan Ryan: B
Ryan was targeted six times and allowed four catches on the day. That said, he didn't allow much after the catch, containing the damage.
Kyle Arrington: C+
Arrington was targeted twice and allowed completions to Griff Whalen on each one. He ended the day with only 17 snaps.
Tavon Wilson: C+
Wilson logged three snaps in the game and got in on a goal-line stop that helped the Patriots force a Colts field-goal attempt.
Steve Gregory: C-
Gregory was in on three big plays from the Colts—two to T.Y. Hilton and one to Coby Fleener. If Gregory's coverage doesn't improve, Duron Harmon could challenge for a starting spot next year.
Stephen Gostkowski: A+
What can't Gostkowski do? Stepping in to punt for an injured Ryan Allen, Gostkowski didn't miss a beat. Even with a pooch punt late in the game, he averaged 41.8 yards per punt.
Gostkowski was also perfect on extra points and only allowed one kickoff to be returned.
Kanorris Davis: A
Matthew Slater: B-
Ja'Gared Davis: C-
Ja'Gared Davis and Slater both had penalties on the day, although Slater made up for it with some good coverage on the punting unit. Kanorris Davis made a phenomenal open-field tackle to pin the Colts deep.
Ryan Allen: B
Allen couldn't field an impossibly high snap from Danny Aiken and seemed to panic a bit at the 2-yard line. According to Nick Underhill of MassLive.com, Allen suffered a sprain in his AC joint and had an MRI Sunday afternoon.
If Allen can't play in the AFC Championship game, the Patriots will have to bring in a holder and punter.
Danny Aiken: F
Aiken's high snap—which nearly hit the International Space Stationcaused a safety as well as Allen's injury. That is unacceptable in the NFL.
All stats are courtesy of NFL.com, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) and the Patriots Media Relations Department.