The New England Patriots are onto Glendale.
With a 45-7 triumph over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium Sunday night, the Patriots are heading from the AFC Championship Game to the Super Bowl. And it is there at University of Phoenix Stadium that they will face the Seattle Seahawks, who defeated the Green Bay Packers in overtime Sunday afternoon, 28-22.
The Patriots outmatched the Colts under a steady rain in Foxborough, powering through with 148 yards and three touchdowns from running back LeGarrette Blount, 25-of-35 passing for 226 yards, three touchdowns and one interception from quaterback Tom Brady, and a defensive effort which saw Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck finish 12-of-33 for 126 yards and two interceptions.
In the process, New England tied a franchise record for points scored in a playoff game, Blount tied a team record with career playoff touchdowns, and Brady and Bill Belichick broke an NFL record upon landing their sixth Super Bowl trip as a tandem.
No quarterback has appeared in six Super Bowls, and no head coach has won more than 21 playoff games. Brady and Belichick accomplished both of those feats on Jan. 18, earning a chance to play on Feb. 1.
Those marks began early against Indianapolis, as New England got out to a 14-point lead with a touchdown run by Blount and a touchdown catch by fullback James Develin in the first quarter of play. But the Colts would answer back in the second, after a pass intended for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski escalated into a touchdown run from Colts rookie ball-carrier Zurlon Tipton.
Only the Colts would not score again.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski put the Patriots up by a score of 17-7 with nine seconds remaining in the second quarter, before left tackle Nate Solder put the team up by a score of 24-7 as an eligible tight end with 10 minutes remaining in the third.
From there, it was more of the same for New England. Gronkowski registered his seventh touchdown in his last four games against the Colts, while Blount registered his second and third touchdowns of the night.
That would do it.
Luck and the Colts saw two second-half drives end in turnovers, as linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Darrelle Revis intercepted the 2012 No. 1 overall pick to hand the ball back to the Patriots. And the Patriots proceeded to hand it off as the clock began to drain.
Brady stepped on for one final series and soon stepped off to a standing ovation.
1. Patriots’ Shift in Power: After third-year back Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and four scores on 37 carries against the Colts in Week 11, the Patriots went back to Blount, who rushed for 166 yards and four scores on 24 carries in the divisional round last January. It was a steady diet of power and finesse thenceforth, as New England incorporated six offensive linemen with rookie fourth-round tackle Cameron Fleming as an eligible tight end. And by the end of it all, the 6-foot, 250-pound rusher had collected nine carries of over eight yards, while Gray filed in late in the fourth quarter to collect four carries for four yards.
2. Ineligible Receivers: Following a week in which the Patriots gained 41 yards over three plays using ineligible receivers, it was more of the same versus Indianapolis. Solder’s touchdown was one of many instances where Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels turned to reporting blockers as eligible and skill players as ineligible. One of which resulted in a sack, but several more resulted in a different form of disruption. The likes of Fleming and blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui were often announced as ineligible as the Colts searched for who was.
3. Revis Pitches Shutout: The performance of New England’s first-team All-Pro cornerback resonated far beyond his 30-yard interception return on a pick route in the third quarter. And while Revis left the game early on after linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s cleat struck him in the back of the helmet, he soon returned and ultimately held Colts wideouts Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief without a reception. He was targeted twice.
4. Arrington Closes Hilton: After limiting Colts slot receiver T.Y. Hilton to one reception for 13 yards on four targets in the Nov. 16, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington conceded only one reception for 36 yards on Jan. 18. With safety help over top and a mix of coverage at the line, Arrington’s performance kept Luck’s primary receiving threat at bay after a season in which Hilton caught 82 passes for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. He stayed on the field as the Patriots’ nickel transitioned to a base defense, while the 6-foot-4, 221-pound Brandon Browner swapped out.
5. Edelman Answers on Third Down: Indianapolis fought to double Gronkowski, and was able to do so effectively for much of the game, as Brady’s first four passes to the three-time Pro Bowler netted three incompletions and a pick by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. But even as Gronkowski managed to get open in the second half, so did Patriots flanker Julian Edelman. Though he left the game with a noticeable limp and headed to the locker room, Edelman battled back onto the field and finished with a team-high nine catches for 98 yards. Those catches were influential on third down, where the wideout reeled in four conversions. He tacked on another on a 4th-and-4 in the fourth quarter.