8:15 PM ET, January 11, 2014
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- LeGarrette Blount wasn't satisfied with three short touchdown runs, not against a team coming off the second greatest comeback in playoff history.
So the 250-pound back who makes long runs routine took off on a 73-yarder and carried the New England Patriots to their third straight AFC Championship Game with a 43-22 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
Suddenly, the ground game has replaced Tom Brady as the heart of the Patriots' offense.
More Patriots-Colts Coverage
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• Stats & Info: Blount's historic day
"Once I get into the open field, they're going to have to chase me," Blount said. "And if they catch me, they do. And if they don't, they don't. They usually don't."
They didn't two weeks earlier when he scored on runs of 36 and 35 yards in the regular-season finale against Buffalo. He also returned kickoffs 83 and 62 yards in that 34-20 victory that gave New England a first-round bye. And they didn't on his long touchdown that gave the Patriots (13-4) a 36-22 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Colts (12-6).
The Patriots will face the winner of the game Sunday between the Broncos and Chargers. It will be in Denver if the Broncos win, and New England will host it if the Chargers win.
"It's just a great achievement," Brady said. "People have counted us out at times this year, but I think we've got a locker room full of believers."
Blount tied Curtis Martin's team playoff record of 166 yards rushing, on 24 carries, two weeks after rushing for a career-high 189.
"He's got that combination of size, power, and quickness and speed," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He can run hard. He can make guys miss and he can go the distance."
Blount scored on three 2-yard runs in the first half, then burst through the right side for his 73-yarder. Once he reached the end zone, he placed the ball gently on the ground made soggy by a game-long rain.
On the next series, Luck threw his third interception, and the Patriots capitalized with Stevan Ridley's second touchdown run, a 1-yarder that finished the scoring with 11:12 left.
"I'm just disappointed in myself," Luck said. "I can't commit that many turnovers and have a chance to win against a great team like this."
Blount joined Ricky Watters, who had five touchdowns for San Francisco on Jan. 15, 1994, as the only players with four or more in a playoff game. The Patriots' six rushing touchdowns tied the 49ers' total in that game for second-most in playoff history.
A Season In A Day
In his first career playoff game, Pats running back LeGarrette Blount had more yards and twice as many TDs as he had with the Bucs in 13 games last season.
While the game was billed as a matchup between quarterbacks -- longtime great Brady and second-year star Luck -- the Patriots' leader was content to hand off while Luck threw an interception on his second pass and never found consistency. He threw two touchdown passes to LaVon Brazill but also threw four interceptions.
Luck had three interceptions a week earlier but led the Colts from a 38-10 deficit early in the third quarter to a 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in a wild-card game.
"We had our chances, man, to make plays and get our offense back on the field," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "Last game, we were able to do that, but it was a great quarterback, a great offense and a great team we were facing (Saturday)."
The Colts trailed 21-12 at halftime, then cut the deficit to 29-22 on a 35-yard pass to Brazill with 5:01 left in the third. The Patriots dominated the rest of the way.
"We just had to keep our foot on the gas pedal," Blount said, "and make sure that they didn't do to us what they did to Kansas City."
Blount's first touchdown came on New England's first offensive play after Alfonzo Dennard's interception. He scored again on the Patriots' second series.
Luck responded with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brazill. Former Patriot Adam Vinatieri set an NFL record with his 59th postseason extra point, making it 14-7.
Blount's third touchdown came 4:06 into in the second quarter before Vinatieri's 36-yard field goal made it 21-10.
The Colts got a break late in the first half when Danny Aiken's snap sailed over punter Ryan Allen's head, ending up in a safety. The Patriots also got a break that the Colts didn't get a touchdown out of it after Allen failed to concede the safety.
Allen fumbled into the air, and Indianapolis' Jeris Pendleton slapped the ball out of the end zone.
"Ryan probably wasn't sure how close they were to him," Belichick said.
Allen hurt his shoulder on the play, and place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski punted the rest of the game. Brady took over Allen's holding duties.
Indianapolis got the ball on the free kick, but the drive ended with Luck's second interception.
Vinatieri's 21-yard field goal early in the third quarter made it 21-15.
Then the Patriots took a 29-15 lead on Ridley's 3-yard run and his carry for a 2-point conversion.
But Luck came right back with his second touchdown pass to Brazill.
"We didn't accomplish the ultimate goal," Colts running back Donald Brown said, "but there are definitely some positives to look back on."
Brady completed 13 of 25 passes for 198 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Luck was 20-for-41 for 331 yards.
Former NBA star Charles Barkley was in the Patriots' locker room after the game. "I'm a big fan of his," Belichick said. ... A moment of silence was held for 17-year-old Sam Berns of Foxborough, whose battle with a rare and fatal genetic condition that accelerates the aging process inspired Patriots players and was the subject of an HBO documentary "Life According to Sam." He died Friday. He had been invited by Patriots owner Robert Kraft to be the team's honorary captain Saturday.
FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11: LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots celebrates with teammate Tom Brady...(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||5.9||5.7|
Yards per pass
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||0-2||5-6|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||0||0|
|TD||13:45||Legarrette Blount 2 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 2 yds, 0:04
|TD||7:19||Legarrette Blount 2 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 10 plays, 74 yds, 5:03
|TD||4:43||Lavon Brazill 38 Yard Pass From Andrew Luck (Adam Vinatieri Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 80 yds, 2:42
|TD||10:58||Legarrette Blount 2 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 14 plays, 75 yds, 6:28
|FG||5:40||Adam Vinatieri 36 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 11 plays, 62 yds, 5:19
|SF||2:28||Ryan Allen Fumbles Out of End Zone for a Safety|
Drive info: 6 plays, -25 yds, 3:17
|FG||10:06||Adam Vinatieri 21 Yard Field Goal is Good|
Drive info: 8 plays, 60 yds, 3:27
|TD||6:23||Stevan Ridley 3 Yard Run (Stevan Ridley Run For Two-Point Conversion is Good)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 88 yds, 3:45
|TD||5:08||Lavon Brazill 35 Yard Pass From Andrew Luck (Adam Vinatieri Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 80 yds, 1:17
|TD||13:08||Legarrette Blount 73 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 73 yds, 0:13
|TD||11:15||Stevan Ridley 1 Yard Run (Stephen Gostkowski Kick is Good)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 18 yds, 1:33
LeGarrette Blount finished with 166 yards and 4 touchdown runs in his 1st career playoff game. That is more yards, and twice as many touchdowns as he had with the Buccaneers in 13 games last season. With his 189 rush yards in Week 17, Blount is averaging 177.5 rush yards per game in his last 2 contests.[+]
LeGarrette Blount Career Rushing
The Patriots scored 43 points without throwing a TD pass, the 3rd-highest point total without a TD pass in NFL playoff history.[+]
Most Points Scored With 0 Pass TD - Playoff Game in NFL History
Andrew Luck has thrown eight interceptions in his playoff career, tied for the most by a quarterback in his first three postseason starts in the Super Bowl era (ELIAS).[+]
Most Int in 1st 3 Postseason Starts - Super Bowl Era (Since 1966)
Tom Brady led the Patriots to a big win Saturday, as the team scored 43 points against the Indianapolis Colts. Brady completed 13 of 25 passes for 198 yards and no touchdowns. Brady's 75.1 Total QBR is the highest postseason single game Total QBR since 2006 by any quarterback who failed to throw a touchdown pass; Brady also holds the fifth-best Total QBR in a similar game.[+]
Andrew Luck threw just 9 interceptions in 16 games (570 pass attempts) in the regular season... He threw 7 interceptions in 2 playoff games (86 pass attempts).
The Patriots scored a touchdown on five of six red-zone trips (83.3%) Saturday, all via rush. During the regular season, they found the end zone on 55.4% of drives that reached the red zone, 15th in the league. In their nine regular-season games without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots scored a touchdown on 42.4% of red-zone drives. In seven games with Gronkowski on the field this season, the Patriots found the end zone on 68.8% of red-zone trips.
Dont'a Hightower's interception of Andrew Luck in the second quarter was the result of a Stanley Havili drop, the Colts' second interception in as many games that resulted from a receiver drop. The Colts did not have such an interception throughout the entire regular season. Donald Brown had 18 yards after contact on 17 rushes Saturday (1.1 YAC/rush). During the regular season, Donald Brown averaged an NFL-best 2.7 yards after contact per rush.
- LeGarrette Blount became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 125 yards and four touchdowns in a postseason game. - Blount ran for 166 yards Saturday, 162 of which were gained on runs inside the tackles, fifth most by a player in a game this season. - Blount had three of his four touchdown runs against eight or more defenders in the box, tied for the most such touchdowns in a game this season. - Blount had 146 rush yards before contact, the second-most such yards for a player in a game this season (DeMarco Murray against the Rams in Week 3 - 149).[+]
LeGarrette Blount Rushing, This Season
The Patriots secured their 8th conference championship appearance in the Tom Brady - Bill Belichick era (since 2001 with Brady starting at QB). If you take away the season Brady was out with a torn ACL, the Patriots have made 8 title games in 12 seasons with Brady as a starter.[+]
Most Conference Championship Appearances Since 2001
Andrew Luck was 0-for-5 with two interceptions on passes traveling 15 or more yards downfield in the fourth quarter Saturday. Luck completed seven deep passes in the first three quarters, tied for the most such completions in a game in his career. -- Luck was 5-for-5 for 149 yards on play action, all in the first three quarters, including 4-for-4 with two touchdowns on deep passes.[+]
Andrew Luck Passing 15+ Yards Downfield, Saturday
The Patriots called designed rush plays on 46 of their 73 offensive snaps Saturday (63.0%), their highest rate in any postseason game since 2001, and scored a franchise-record six rushing touchdowns. The Patriots ran the ball 41.3% of the time in the regular season, 16th in the league.
Brandon Spikes played in 669 of the Patriots' defensive snaps this season and they allowed a Total QBR of 44.1 with him on the field, compared to 59.7 without him.[+]
Patriots with Brandon Spikes On/Off Field - This Season
Andrew Luck will start his second career road playoff game Saturday, and his play on the road in his second season has been much improved from his rookie campaign.[+]
Andrew Luck on Road in Career (Including Playoffs)
The Patriots will play their ninth consecutive playoff game at home Saturday against the Colts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that will extend the second-longest streak of home playoff games in NFL history. If the Patriots and Chargers both win this weekend, New England would host the AFC Championship Game and tie the Dolphins for the most consecutive playoff games at home in league history (10).[+]
Most Consecutive Playoff Games at Home - NFL History
Why did the Colts sign Deion Branch? He likely won't make major on-field contributions Saturday night, but not many people know Tom Brady's tendencies better than Branch.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information