FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The shootout between Tom Brady and Andrew Luck in Saturday night’s divisional playoff game was a riveting duel for three quarters. It had everything a postseason game should have, with Luck cast as the heir apparent who played brilliantly as he tried to knock off Brady, the New England Patriots’ longtime king of playoff excellence.
Ultimately, it was not a fair match. Brady had a secret weapon in the huddle: the fourth-year running back LeGarrette Blount.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots ahead by a touchdown, Blount broke open a tense game with a 73-yard dash into the end zone. It was Blount’s fourth touchdown of the game, a Patriots playoff record. Two plays later, Luck cracked, looking like the 24-year-old second-year player he is.
Luck heaved a pass into double coverage, and it was easily intercepted. Five plays later, the Patriots had scored again, and they were leading by 21 points.
There was no miracle Luck comeback this week. The Patriots will be going to their third consecutive AFC championship game next weekend. It will be their eighth conference championship game in the Brady era.
For one more postseason, the Patriots and Brady, their 36-year-old quarterback, held off the Colts, 43-22.
The Patriots, who have lost six starters to injury this season, including Brady’s favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski, continue to find ways to play in the most meaningful January games. On Jan. 19, New England will play the winner of Sunday’s Denver-San Diego game for the AFC berth in the Super Bowl.
Trailing by 7-0, the Colts gave the ball back to the Patriots after three plays. Brady, with extraordinary accuracy, quickly led New England on a 10-play, 74-yard touchdown drive.
But most impressive was a throw to wide receiver Danny Amendola that gained 16 yards. With the pocket collapsing, Brady threw the ball over a collection of three players and had his pass fit into a tiny window where Amendola caught it as he tumbled to the ground. Two defenders were on either side of Amendola, but the ball was in a spot where only Amendola could catch it.
The completion gave Brady more than 6,000 postseason passing yards, an NFL record.
NE—Blount 2 run (Gostkowski kick), 13:41.
NE—Blount 2 run (Gostkowski kick), 7:17.
Ind—Brazill 38 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick), 4:35.
NE—Blount 2 run (Gostkowski kick), 10:54.
Ind—FG Vinatieri 36, 5:35.
Ind—Team safety, 2:18.
Ind—FG Vinatieri 21, 10:03.
NE—Ridley 3 run (Ridley run), 6:18.
Ind—Brazill 35 pass from Luck (Vinatieri kick), 5:01.
NE—Blount 73 run (Gostkowski kick), 12:55.
NE—Ridley 1 run (Gostkowski kick), 11:12.
|Total Net Yards||386||419|
|Time of Possession||25:00||35:00|
RUSHING—Ind, D.Brown 17-63, Luck 1-5, Richardson 3-1. N, Blount 24-166, Ridley 14-52, Vereen 5-17, Allen 1-0, Develin 1-0, Brady 1-(minus 1).
PASSING—Ind, Luck 20-41-4-331. NE, Brady 13-25-0-198.
RECEIVING—Ind, Fleener 6-74, Whalen 5-67, Hilton 4-103, Brazill 2-73, Doyle 1-7, Havili 1-4, D.Brown 1-3. NE, Edelman 6-84, Amendola 3-77, Vereen 2-16, Collie 1-15, Hoomanawanui 1-6.