Colts 0-7-0-0 — 7
Patriots 14-3-21-7 — 45
For the 5th time in the last 11 postseasons, the Indianapolis Colts played the New England Patriots. For the 4th time, the Patriots emerged victorious and earned a trip to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona on February 1st.
Awaiting New England will be the Seattle Seahawks who came back from down 16-0 in thrilling fashion to defeat the Green Packers 28-22 in the NFC Championship Game.
Last year in their Divisional Playoff Game, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. One year later: Blount didn’t necessarily match 2014’s game total, but with 148 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns, he did more than his share to help propel New England to their 6th AFC Championship of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Era.
Here is how the Patriots punched their ticket to Glendale:
An Early Colts Mistake Led Directly to the Patriots 1st Touchdown
Both Indianapolis and New England’s offenses went three-and-out on their opening possessions. After New England punted on their possession, Colts returner Joshua Cribbs fumbled the football and the Patriots took over on the Colts’ 26-yard line.
Tom Brady and the Pats’ offense would strike 1st six plays later with a LeGarrette Blount 1-yard touchdown run — Blount had four touchdowns in last year’s Divisional Round Playoff Game against the Colts — that gave New England a 7-0 lead 4:45 into the 1st quarter.
Adam Vinateri’s 50-yard Miss Gave Patriots Good Field Position to Strike Again
— NFL (@nfl) January 19, 2015
Indianapolis’ offense was able to move the football on their 3rd possession, but Vinateri missed a 50-yard attempt wide right that never had a chance.
New England’s offense was gifted good field-position for their 2nd consecutive possession. Brady and company took advantage by marching down 59 yards on eight plays. Brady, who loves using different weapons near the goal line, tossed an outside strike to fullback James Develin who broke a tackle at the 1-yard line and powered in to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead with 1:20 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Indianapolis Took Advantage of a Tom Brady Interception and Marched Down the Field for Their 1st Score
Long-time Cleveland Brown D’Qwell Jackson intercepted Tom Brady inside the Indianapolis 10-yard line as the Patriots were looking to go up by three touchdowns. Instead, the Colts answered by moving the football 93 yards on 10 plays for their 1st touchdown of the game — it was the longest drive the New England defense allowed all season.
The key play of the drive happened when Luck connected on a 36-yard pass to wide received T.Y. Hilton who straddled the sideline to get both feet down and keep the drive alive. It was Hilton’s longest reception against the Patriots secondary this season in their two meetings.
Nate Solder’s 1st Career Score Gave the Patriots a 24-7 Lead Coming out of the Half
Brady and Blount moved the Patriots 87 yards on nine plays for their 3rd touchdown of the game. The drive was capped off when offensive lineman Nate Solder — a former collegiate tight end before transitioning into an offensive tackle — hauled in a 16-yard touchdown reception and rumbled, fumbled and stumbled his way passed the goal line to give the Pats a 17-point edge 4:57 into the 2nd half.
After a Quiet 1st Half, Rob Gronkowski Re-emerges to Help Brady in the 3rd Quarter
Gronkowski was mostly shut down in the game’s 1st two-and-a-half quarters registering a goose egg in comparison to his larger teammate Solder. Brady finally found his tight end for multiple receptions (three for 28 yards), with the last of them on the drive resulting in a 5-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots took a commanding 31-7 lead with 3:19 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The Patriots Score 3 Touchdowns in Less Than 8 Minutes to Ice the Game
Luck threw his 1st interception of the game — to Darrelle Revis — but it was a costly one. Revis returned the pick to the Indianapolis 13-yard line.
On the next play, Blount muscled his way for 13 yards and extended the football over the goal line to give him his 2nd TD of the game, and the Patriots a 38-7 lead.
The Patriots continued to wear down the Colts’ front-seven, and eventually Blount scored one more TD in the 4th quarter. The final score was 45-7.
Colts and Patriots Winner Will Play the Surging Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX
The Patriots are 3-1 in the 1st four games, but the Colts are 1-1 in AFC Championship games. That, however, was a different era with a different quarterback — out went Peyton Manning, in came Andrew Luck.
It is a bit surprising that the Colts are in this spot, but factoring in that the two quarterbacks they played in Rounds 1 and 2 — Andy Dalton and the aforementioned Manning — have combined to have 13 one-and-dones in their playoff careers and now it’s a bit less of a shock.
While the Colts soundly defeated the Denver Broncos 24-13 last week to advance to this game, the Patriots struggled to defeat the Ravens 38-35, and had to come back from two 14-point deficits in that game.
The key match-up in this game will be the Patriots seemingly anemic defensive line against the Colts offensive line that tends to struggle at times, but, for the most part, has kept Luck upright in the postseason. When Luck has time to throw, he’s one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the game. All four quarterbacks remaining could be classified as the four most feared passers with time to scout the field.