The New England Patriots topped Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 in a rain-filled Gillette Stadium.
One major storyline for this contest was whether Luck-the bright future of the NFL- was ready to step up and outplay Tom Brady. But once again the Patriots showed that experience still triumphs over youth. Unlike last week’s win over Baltimore, the Patriots showed they are capable of running a balanced attack, utilizing workhorse LeGarrette Blount for 3 touchdowns and 220 passing yards from postseason legend Tom Brady.
Dynamic weapon Luck never got his offense into rhythm, managing just 126 passing yards and a meager 23 QBR. Whether it was New England’s improved pass rush, the weather, or something else, this was not the offensive performance expected out of the 3rd-year quarterback.
The game got off to a rough start for the Colts with a 3-and-out on the game’s opening drive and New England putting 7 points on the board. The game’s first major miscue came from punt return specialist Josh Cribbs who inexplicably had a punt clank off his helmet and into the arms of Darius Fleming. This led to a hard-fought touchdown reception by fullback James Develin (first TD catch of his career).
A rare miss by future Hall-of-Famer Adam Vinatieri took points off the board for Indy and allowed New England to take a 17-7 advantage into halftime. In the 2nd half it was all New England on their home field.
Blount ran for big chunks of yardage on the Patriots’ opening drive of the 2nd half and the dagger came with another “ineligible receiver” play from the shrewd Patriots coaching staff. Left tackle Nate Solder reported as an eligible receiver from his normal spot on the offensive line and after throwing a quick block he ran out on a short route. Hauling in the short pass from Brady, Solder covered the ball with both hands and plowed his way 16 yards for the emphatic touchdown. From that point it was all but over.
With the victory, New England moves on to the 8th Super Bowl appearance in franchise history- 6th in the Belichick-Brady era. Their opponent, defending champion Seattle Seahawks, are a formidable opponent 2 weeks from now in Arizona. It will take a while to digest the dramatic events from both conference title games but we’ll have plenty of time to analyze for this juggernaut matchup.