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Brandon Browner gets to meet up ‘with my old boys’ in Super Bowl

01.19.15 at 12:58 am ET
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FOXBORO — Brandon Browner is savoring the chance he didn’t get last year.

The Patriots defensive back was on a Super Bowl team with the Seattle Seahawks but because of his league-imposed suspension, didn’t get to play in the conference championship or Super Bowl in New York.

He signed with the Patriots in March, hoping for the chance to get back to the big game. But not just against any team, his old team.

“It’€™s crazy, man,” Browner said after New England’s 45-7 romp Sunday in the AFC championship. “I really had that vision when I signed here. Hopefully we’€™d meet up with my old boys and it happened to work out that way.”

From the start of the game, the Patriots secondary completely shut down Andrew Luck, giving his receivers precious little room to maneuver. Browner was called for one defensive holding call but that was more than worth the price he had to pay as his physical style bottled up the Colts.

“That goes to the coaching staff and the game plan that they set up for us,” Browner said. “They’€™re confident in their game plan and the players they got. It was up to us to just execute. Run around, wrap-up on tackles, knock balls down. Today we got our hands on a couple balls, too. They say when you win the turnover battle, 90 percent of the time that team wins.”

Indeed, the Patriots came up with two interceptions and the New England secondary, which has been a lynchpin of the team all season, now gets its chance to prove its worth on the biggest stage.

On Dec. 18, 2013, the NFL erroneously reported Browner was facing an indefinite suspension for again violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug rules. The suspension kept him from playing in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Broncos.

The suspension was later changed to reflect a substance abuse issue related to missing drug tests during the time Browner was unsigned by an NFL team and played football in the CFL, prior to the Seahawks contract. On March 4, 2014, he was officially reinstated by the NFL. Ten days later, the Patriots signed him. Now he’s got his chance to actually play in the Super Bowl.

“It means a lot. I missed the one last year and I’€™m fortunate to be back in this thing the following year with a good football team,” Browner said. “And with a bond that I’€™ve built with these guys like the one I built with the guys over there for that last few years, so it’€™s a good feeling.”

Read More: Brandon Browner, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX

Nate Solder on touchdown catch: ‘There is no way to know that was coming’

01.19.15 at 12:52 am ET
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Nate Solder's touchdown catch drew the praise of the entire Patriots' offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Nate Solder‘s touchdown catch drew the praise of the entire Patriots’ offensive line. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — The Patriots and their trickery were at it again.

On the opening drive of the second half, with the Patriots leading  the Colts, 17-7, it was third-and-1 on the Colts’ 16-yard line and left tackle Nate Solder reported as an eligible receiver.

The Colts expected quarterback Tom Brady to hand it off to LeGarrette Blount with the Patriots running it down their throats on the drive, but Brady faked the hand off and Solder slipped behind the defense and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass, diving into the end zone before he could be brought down.

It was Solder’s first career catch, although he did play some tight end in college at the University of Colorado.

“There is no way to know that was coming,” the humble Solder said after the game. “When the time came I did my best as anyone would’ve.”

Asked how he would rate his route on the catch, Solder couldn’t do anything but laugh.

“Just proficient,” he said. “I made it across the goal line.”

It was the second straight week the Patriots called a “trick play,” as in last week’s divisional round win over the Ravens, Josh McDaniels called a double-pass when Julian Edelman found Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown strike.

“I feel fortunate to be a part of this group,” said Solder. “We have great coaches, great players. To be a part of this group is amazing.”

The touchdown electrified the Patriots’ sideline and was the start of 28 second half points for New England, including 21 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. The biggest celebration on the sidelines and on the field was with his fellow offensive linemen.

“Those are my guys, those are my guys,” Solder said. “To be around them, the excitement that they shared with me, it was like we all did it. That was a lot of fun.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Nate Solder, ryan wendell,

Tom Brady takes to Facebook with wife Gisele to celebrate AFC championship win

01.19.15 at 12:14 am ET
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Tom Brady didn’t waste any time posting to Facebook after the win, posting this picture shortly after the Patriots’ 45-7 win over the Colts to advance to Brady’s sixth Super Bowl.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Tom Brady,

Adam Vinatieri: ‘It starts with Coach [Bill] Belichick, obviously he is a mastermind at getting game plans’

01.19.15 at 12:03 am ET
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Adam Vinatieri missed his only field goal attempt of the game, a 51 yarder in the first quarter. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Adam Vinatieri missed his only field goal attempt of the game, a 51-yard attempt in the first quarter. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Spending nine seasons with the Patriots, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri knows what winning is like, and what it takes to be successful.

After advancing a round further in each of the last three seasons, the Colts are close, but not quite over the hump of reaching the Super Bowl, as they were blown out, 45-7 in the AFC championship game Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

When asked what the Patriots do to be so successful — reaching their sixth Super Bowl in 14 seasons, and playing in their fourth straight AFC title game, Vinatieri named two people — Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

“Ultimately it starts with Coach Belichick,” said Vinatieri. “Obviously he is a mastermind at getting game plans. Obviously the skill level on that team, they have a lot of great players. A guy like Tom Brady, if you have him as your quarterback you’re going to win a lot of games. Across the board they played exceptionally well offensively and special teams, not only today, but all season long and they have a good team.”

As for the 2-2 start for the Patriots this season, and many people doubting the Patriots and Brady, Vinatieri was never a guy to believe all that.

“When you have a coach like Bill Belichick and a quarterback like Tom Brady it’s never really over,” he said. “They are clearly a very, very good football team. You’re not the No. 1 seed in the AFC by playing bad football all season long, so any team and every team has a hiccup occasionally throughout the course of a season so whatever they were saying early they outgrew that for sure.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Adam Vinatieri, Bill Belichick,

Photos: Patriots beat Colts, advance to Super Bowl

01.18.15 at 10:43 pm ET
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The Patriots beat the Colts, 45-7, in Sunday’s AFC championship to advance to the Super Bowl for the sixth time during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. They will face the Seahawks Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.

Click here to check out some photos from the game.

Tom Brady is heading to the Super Bowl for an NFL record sixth time. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady is heading to the Super Bowl for an NFL record sixth time. (Getty Images)

What we learned: Patriots crush Colts, head to Super Bowl XLIX

01.18.15 at 10:02 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl (Elsa/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl (Elsa/Getty Images)

FOXBORO –€” The Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl.

In a rain-soaked Gillette Stadium, New England crushed the Colts in Sunday’€™s AFC title game, 45-7, to punch its ticket to Super Bowl XLIX, set for two weeks in Arizona against the Seahawks.

It will be the sixth Super Bowl appearance for quarterback Tom Brady, who finished 23-for-35 for 226 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. While the quarterback had his moments, it was the running game that lifted New England in this one. The Patriots took a 14-0 first-quarter lead and 17-7 halftime edge never looked back against an overwhelmed Indy team, thanks in large part to LeGarrette Blount. The big back finished the night with 30 carries for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

On the other side of the ball, Andrew Luck was 12-for-33 for 126 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Dan Herron had 10 carries for 51 yards, while Dwayne Allen had four catches for 30 yards.

Here’€™s what we learned about the Patriots on Sunday:

Tom Brady can play relatively well in an AFC title game.

The quarterback managed to hit on a few really nice throws, and ended up with three touchdown passes on the night. (It marked his seventh career playoff game with three-plus touchdowns — that’€™s second only to Joe Montana‘€™s nine.) He missed on a few –€” his semi-regular “€œbad throw in the second quarter down the middle of the field”€ was turned into seven points by the Colts before halftime –€” and appeared to be affected at times in the second half when the rain really got bad. But when you stack it against some of his past performances in AFC title games, it was pretty good.

There was a retro feel to this game in the second half.

The Patriots did a lot of mixing and matching in the secondary, but for the most part, when New England was in man, Kyle Arrington was working against T.Y. Hilton, while Darrelle Revis worked against a couple of receivers, including Donte Moncrief. Meanwhile, Brandon Browner spent a lot of time opposite one of Indy’€™s tight ends, either Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen. The big play of the night came when Luck was picked off by Revis on a third-quarter pass for Hilton –€” the cornerback returned it to the Indy 13, and New England cashed it in a play later when Blount scored from 13 yards out for a touchdown that made the game 38-7, turning the contest into a full-fledged rout. At that moment, the cheering crowd, the score and the circumstances made it feel an awful lot like the 2003 and 2004 playoff games between the Patriots and Colts –€” all that was missing was Bill Polian raging against the refs and the crowd chanting ‘€œCut that meat’€ at Peyton Manning.

And that included the run game.

That back-to-the-future feel extended to the New England running game, as Blount played the role of Corey Dillon to perfection. The Indy run defense, which was wobbly at times over the course of the season, had no answer for Blount, who went over 100 yards by the start of the fourth quarter and had three rushing touchdowns on the night. (He now has seven career postseason rushing touchdown, a new franchise record.) If big backs are your thing, the Super Bowl should be really interesting.

They still have a few tricks in their bag.

A 16-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to left tackle Nate Solder got the Patriots on the scoreboard at the start of the third quarter. The former tight end reported as eligible ‘€” take that, John Harbaugh –€” and kind of stumbled his way into the end zone to make it 24-7 with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter. It marked the second time in two weeks the Patriots scored a nontraditional touchdown (last week gave us the Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola pass), and showed that New England still had a few tricks up its sleeve. (For what it’€™s worth, the Patriots also unearthed the old “four offensive linemen”€ chestnut as well.) According to the Patriots, Nate Solder is the third offensive lineman in Patriots history to catch a touchdown pass, joining Tom Ashworth (2005) and Pete Brock (1976).

The defense is playing at a very high level at this point.

New England enters the Super Bowl on a roll defensively. According to Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus, including Sunday’€™s AFC title game, the Patriots have now allowed 14 touchdowns in nine games (an average of 1.55 per game) since their Week 10 bye. That included four against Baltimore last week in the AFC divisional playoffs. The defense has been best when the game has been on the line –€” New England has yielded just two second-half touchdowns since its Week 11 win over the Colts in the regular season. On Sunday, the Patriots sacked Luck twice, as the Colts never sniffed the end zone at any moment in the second half.

They suffered some bumps and bruises, but appeared to get out of it without serious injury.

Revis appeared be shaken up on the Colts’€™ second possession of the night. He missed a few plays ‘€” given the history of New England’€™s top cornerback in recent AFC title games, there were more than a few anxious moments, but he quickly returned to the game. Julian Edelman left early in the second quarter and headed to the locker room with what the team called a hip injury, but he was back before the half. And Sealver Siliga went down with what the team referred to as a foot injury late in the second quarter, but was back in it at the start of the third.

They’€™re headed to Arizona.

The next two weeks, the storylines will write themselves: Darrelle Revis vs. Richard Sherman. Tom Brady vs. Richard Sherman. Brandon Browner vs. his old team. Pete Carroll vs. his old team. Tom Brady and the Patriots vs. history, as they revisit the place of their most infamous postseason defeat. It should be an interesting two weeks.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots,

Halftime analysis: Patriots 17, Colts 7

01.18.15 at 8:28 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots lead the Colts 17-7 at halftime. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the Patriots lead the Colts 17-7 at halftime. (Elsa/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Two quarters are in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and the Patriots hold a 17-7 lead. Tom Brady is 11-for-21 for 95 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount has 16 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown. On the others side of the ball, Andrew Luck is 7-for-19 for 89 yards –€” Coby Fleener has three catches for 30 yards.

Here are a few quick notes:

— Both teams went three-and-out on their first offensive series, but following New England’€™s first punt of the night, return man Josh Cribbs continued his adventurous playoff run as a punt returner with a fumble after a fair catch, with Darius Fleming coming away with the muffed punt. The Patriots cashed that in a few plays later when LeGarrette Blount plunged in from 1-yard out to make it 7-0 with 10:15 left in the first quarter. It wasn’€™t so much a nice special teams play by New England, but it was a nice job of the Patriots capitalizing on a special teams good by the Colts.

— The Patriots got another special teams break late in the first quarter when Adam Vinatieri missed a 51-yard field goal attempt on a kick toward the lighthouse end of the stadium. On the ensuing drive, New England went to the old razzle-dazzle, four-man offensive line once, and while that singular play didn’€™t produce any yardage, the Patriots were able to punch it in soon after that with a 1-yard pass to fullback James Develin to make it 14-0 before the end of the first quarter.

–€” Brady had his annual “€œcrappy first-half throw that results in an interception”€ with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter. With New England driving in Indy territory, the quarterback tried to fit it into a barely-there window with a throw to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The ball was picked off neatly by linebacker D’€™Qwell Jackson, and the Colts made them payee. While the New England defense had a relatively good start, its lowest moment came midway through the second when Luck put together a 10-play, 93-yard drive that consumed 4:17 and culminated with a 1-yard touchdown from from Zurlon Tipton to make it 14-7 with 4:54 left in the half.

–€” The Patriots put the wraps on the first half with a 21-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 17-7 with 11 seconds left in the first half. It was a 15-play, 65-yard drive for the Patriots, but it was a tad deflating for New England, who had four cracks at the end zone from inside the Indy 5-yard line but couldn’€™t punch it in.

— The Patriots did a lot of mixing and matching in the secondary, but for the most part, when New England was in man, Kyle Arrington was working against T.Y. Hilton, while Darrelle Revis worked against a couple of receivers, including Donte Moncrief. Meanwhile, Brandon Browner spent a lot of time opposite one of Indy’€™s tight ends, either Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen.

— In terms of injury, Revis appeared be shaken up on the Colts’€™ second possession of the night. He missed a few plays — given the history of New England’€™s top cornerback in recent AFC title games, there were more than a few anxious moments, but he quickly returned to the game. Julian Edelman left early in the second quarter and headed to the locker room with what the team called a hip injury, but he was back before the half. Sealver Siliga went down with what the team referred to as a foot injury late in the second quarter.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots,

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