|01.12.14 at 2:13 am ET|
FOXBORO — LeGarrette Blount isn’t going to question what’s working.
On Saturday night, he continued his red-hot running that he showed in the final five weeks of the regular season, when he rushed for nearly 600 yards and nine touchdowns in the final month.
On Saturday night, he nearly matched half that touchdown total in his first career playoff game. Blount ran it into the end zone four times, surpassing Curtis Martin‘s three touchdowns of Jan. 1997 against the Steelers, and just one shy of the NFL record set by Ricky Watters for the 49ers on Jan. 15, 1994 against the Giants.
Blount led a team effort that totaled six rushing touchdowns, with the other two coming from Stevan Ridley. The six rushing touchdowns was just one shy of the seven by the Bears against the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship, won by Chicago, 73-0.
‘That’s what we go into the game thinking,” Blount said. “We feel like we’re the most physical team no matter who we play, and that’s how we practice, that’s how we play, and that’s our mindset.
‘We didn’t know that we [were] going to be able to dominate, but we came in, our game plan was to play tough and play physical and go out there and get a win by any means necessary, and if we weren’t able to run the ball, we always got No. 12 that’s going to put the team on his back and do great things like he’s always done in his whole career,” Blount said.
That No. 12 happens to be Tom Brady, who didn’t throw a single touchdown pass for just the fourth time in his NFL postseason career. The Patriots have won all four.
‘If you would have told me before the game, I would not have believed it at all,” Blount said.
Blount sealed the win with a 73-yard breakaway early in the fourth quarter that put the Patriots up, 36-22. He was looking at the video board while Logan Mankins raised his right hand immediately in triumph as soon as Blount broke free in the secondary.
‘I didn’t look at the big screen until I got free,” Blount said. “I looked at it to see if anybody was close to catching me, and they weren’t, and the rest is history.’
|01.12.14 at 2:13 am ET|
FOXBORO — Home games following a first-round bye have been very kind to Tom Brady in the past as he’s averaged 275 yards passing and thrown 16 touchdowns with three interceptions over those seven games. Saturday night was a different story as the Patriots rushed for a franchise-record (regular or postseason) six touchdowns in their 43-22 win over the Colts at a rainy and damp Gillette Stadium.
“That was amazing,” Brady said. “We keep handing it off and those guys just run so hard and do a great job running and finding the holes where they can just slice through there and gain as many yards as they can. It was pretty cool.”
The six rushing touchdowns were the second-most in NFL playoff history behind the Chicago Bears in 1940 when they rushed for seven against Washington.
Brady finished the game 13-for-25 with 198 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. It was only the fourth time in his career where he didn’t throw a touchdown pass in a playoff game and just the second since the AFC Championship Game in 2001.
Despite not putting up eye-popping numbers, that didn’t matter to the 36-year-old as it’s all about winning and moving on to the next week.
“It was good. We keep playing like that, the way our defense has been getting the ball for us, and really what we’ve done the last three or four weeks, running the ball has just been awesome,” Brady said. “It’s helped everything out and it does make it easy when you hand it off and it goes 70 yards for a touchdown. That’s a great feeling and a great way to score. Hopefully we keep doing it, hopefully we can do it next week too.”
Even though he threw for less than 200 yards, Brady did break a few records in the game as he eclipsed the 6,000 yard passing mark in the postseason, becoming the first player in NFL history to do so. Currently he has 6,147 passing yards in the playoffs over the course of his career.
|01.12.14 at 1:14 am ET|
FOXBORO — With the Patriots holding a 21-10 lead with 2:18 remaining in the first half the Patriots were set to punt at midfield when long-snapper Danny Aiken‘s snap went over the head of punter Ryan Allen and all hell broke loose.
The ball sailed all the way back inside the Patriots five-yard line and when the rookie punter scooped up the loose ball he tried to make a play by lateraling the ball, but it went out of the end zone resulting in a safety and Allen taking a bone-crunching hit by a few Colts special teamers.
Allen punted the ensuing free kick, but then held onto his shoulder walking off the field. After some medical attention on the sideline he retreated to the locker room and did not return with what the team called a shoulder injury. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski took over as punter and Tom Brady as the place-holder.
“Ryan was getting checked out after the safety punt and he went in to see the doctors and they said you’re up,” Gostkowski said. “I didn’t really panic and when everyone else around you can stay calm it makes it easier for you to stay calm.”
Even though it was Gostkowski’s first time punting in a game at any level over the course of his career, even back to high school, you wouldn’t have known it as of his five punts two went inside the 20-yard line and he averaged 41.8 yards per kick, including a long of 53.
“I can never prepare for something like that, it’s just something that happened,” Gostkowski said. “It’s unfortunate that Ryan couldn’t return. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and hopefully he’s OK. He’s done such a great job this year and just an unfortunate set of circumstances that I was lucky enough to do a good job and help the team win. It’s hard to have too much fun when my compadre was sidelined with an injury, but it’s about as fun as I can have with not kicking field goals.”
Losing their punter and holder in the middle of a playoff game could have been deadly for the Patriots, but their ability to remain calm in a situation like that was one of their keys to victory Saturday night.
“It’s a lot different,” Gostkowski said of punting instead of place-kicking. “I was really worried about just catching it and getting it off. That was the first time I’ve ever punted in a game in my life so it was a challenge and luckily I didn’t let it get me nervous. I felt comfortable out there, I don’t know how. I think getting off a good first punt helped too and I just didn’t try to do too much.”
Allen had a very impressive rookie season averaging 44.5 yards per punt and pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line 28 times.
If Allen is unable to play in next week’s AFC Championship the Patriots will need to sign a punter.
|01.11.14 at 11:29 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The most sneaky underrated trade in recent Patriots history continues to pay dividends for the Patriots, as New England rode LeGarrette Blount and his 166 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns to a 43-22 win over the Colts Saturday night in divisional playoff action at Gillette Stadium.
Blount — who was traded to the Patriots in exchange for football part-timer Jeff Demps and a seventh-round pick this past spring — served as a wrecking ball against the Colts Saturday night, setting a new franchise record with four rushing touchdowns in a playoff game.
The Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 lead and even though Andrew Luck provided a few nervous moments for the soggy Gillette Stadium crowd, New England was in control for most of the night. Blount (who now has 431 rushing yards in his last three games) and Stevan Ridley (14 carries for 52 yards and two touchdowns) led the way for the Patriots, as the ground game paced the Patriots attack.
Tom Brady ended up without a touchdown pass — the first time he has quarterbacked a New England team that broke 40 points and didn’t have a touchdown pass since a 44-13 win over the Colts on Sept. 30, 2001. The Patriots quarterback went 13-for-25 for 198 yards. Meanwhile, Andrew Luck was 20-for-41 with 331 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Patriots now advance to the AFC title game, set for next Sunday against the winner of Sunday’s Chargers-Broncos contest.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Once again, Blount was up to the challenge. The Patriots leaned heavily on their running game throughout the night, and Blount responded, particularly in the red zone. He rushed for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns — both from two yards out — to help New England push out to a 14-0 lead. He added a second-quarter and a fourth-quarter touchdown, breaking the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a playoff game (Curtis Marin had three against Pittsburgh in 1997.) In addition, Ridley tacked on two rushing touchdowns of his own. In all, it was a sturdy night for the running game, and a big reason the Patriots went 5-for-6 in the red zone.
– New England got a very good performance out of its linebackers. Rookie Jamie Collins was very competitive — particularly in coverage, most of the time against tight end Coby Fleener. He had a nice tackle for a loss midway through the third quarter on Trent Richardson, as well as a sack of Luck later on that same series. He saved his best highlight for the fourth quarter, when he picked off Luck and took it all the way back to the Indy 18. Meanwhile, Dont’a Hightower was aggressive, and did a nice job coming away with a Luck interception. In the wake of the news that Brandon Spikes may have played his last game with the Patriots, it was a positive sign for the Patriots.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– The Patriots lost any sort of offensive rhythm they had built up over the better part of the first and into the second quarter by the midway point of the game. They had three consecutive series between the end of the second quarter and into the third quarter where they were unable to generate any sort of traction on the offensive side of the ball, with one of the three series ending when punter Ryan Allen was crunched trying to recover a bad snap that got away from him. The Patriots had one nice series at the end of the third quarter — one that ended with a three-yard plunge from Ridley for a touchdown — but the offensive draught continued late in the third and into the fourth, and allowed the Colts to hang around into the final quarter.
– Allen was really blasted on a second-quarter punt attempt that left him sidelined for the rest of the night and caused the Patriots to go to Stephen Gostkowski to punt the rest of the evening. A bad snap from Danny Aiken — his worst of the year — caused Allen to go scrambling back to the goal line to try and recover the ball. He was cracked and lost the handle, as the play went for a safety. He went to the locker room and did not return. Gostkowski did well down the stretch while punting, but all in all, it was a rough night for the Patriots special teamers, who also took some bad penalties early on.
|01.11.14 at 6:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The following players were listed as inactive for the Patriots for Saturday’s game against the Colts: offensive lineman Chris Barker, wide receiver Aaron Dobson, tight end DJ Williams, defensive end Jake Bequette, defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga, defensive back Justin Green and linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Here’s who will be most affected by the inactives:
On offense, Barker is a rookie lineman out of Nevada who has played in four games this season, but with the recent improvement in the health along the offensive line, he’s been left out as a healthy scratch. The same is likely the case for Williams, as tight ends Matthew Mulligan and Michael Hoomanawanui are as healthy as possible for Saturday’s contest. Dobson was downgraded to out on Friday, and in his place, expect a heavier workload for rookie Kenbrell Thompkins.
Sopoaga, Bequette, Beauharnais and Green are all healthy scratches on the defensive side of the ball. Sealver Siliga has emerged as more of a presence at defensive tackle as of late, which has left Sopoaga expendable as a game-day option. The same applies to Bequette, as he has clearly been supplanted by Andre Carter and Michael Buchanan as the leading options as backup defensive ends. Meanwhile, Beauharnais and Green have been inactive more than active over the course of the regular season, so it’s no surprise they have been officially deactivated for Saturday’s playoff game.
For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.
|01.11.14 at 6:38 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have played playoff games in bitter cold, fog and snow before in Foxboro.
Saturday night, they’ll be playing the Colts in something a little different. Steady rain and gusty winds are expected throughout the game that will send the winner to the AFC championship next Sunday.
While the temperature shouldn’t be an issue (53 degrees forecasted for 8:15 p.m. kickoff), the wind could be a huge factor in the passing and kicking games.
Rain is expected from the start of the game through 11 p.m. with wind gusts of up to 45 miles an hour in the forecast. The wind is expected to be a steady 20 MPH out of the south, meaning the team moving toward the closed (south) end of the stadium will be moving into the wind and the team moving into the open (north) end will have the wind, at least at the start of the game.
Several tarps covered the field until shortly before 6 p.m. when they were taken off to allow both teams to warm up on the wet turf. Puddles – like those that developed in the second half of the Bills game on Dec. 29 – were spotted all over the field.
Memorable weather games played at Foxboro include the heavy rain of Dec. 31, 1978 when the Oilers beat the Patriots, 31-14, in the divisional round, the fog of Jan. 5, 1997 when the Patriots beat the Steelers and the coldest Patriots home game ever (-4 F) of Jan. 10, 2004 when they beat Tennessee to advance to the AFC championship. The Patriots beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, 24-14, the next week in the snow to advance to Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Of course, the most famous playoff game ever played in Foxboro was the “Snow Bowl” on Jan. 19, 2002 when Tom Brady and the Patriots beat the Raiders, 16-13, in overtime to advance to the AFC championship.
|01.11.14 at 5:19 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As the Patriots take the field against the Colts to open a hopeful playoff push to Super Bowl XLVIII, they will be doing so without a teenager who brought them together in the opening month of the season.
Sam Berns, a 17-year-old who battled the disease Progeria, died Friday night. Berns was to have been the Patriots honorary game captain for their playoff contest against the Colts. The team will hold a moment of silence before the game.
‘I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him,” Kraft said. “He was a special young man whose inspirational story and positive outlook on life touched my heart. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and to get to know his incredible family. Together, they positively impacted the lives of people around the world in their quest to find a cure for Progeria.
“The HBO documentary, ‘Life According to Sam’ shared his incredible story with a national audience. It was so beautifully done. It made you laugh. It also made you cry. Today, it’s the latter for all who knew Sam or learned of his story through that documentary. Earlier this week, I had extended an invitation for Sam to be the Patriots’ honorary captain for tonight’s playoff game. I was looking forward to spending more time with Sam and his family.
“News of his passing came as a complete surprise. It is another reminder that we can’t take anything for granted. Be sure to give your loved ones hugs and kisses and tell them how much you love them. My heart aches for his parents, Scott and Leslie, his aunt Audrey and the rest of Sam’s extended family. Words cannot express the sadness or the depth of sympathy I feel for them today.”
Progeria is a rare syndrome in children and adolescents characterized by physical signs and symptoms of premature old age. Most diagnosed with the disease do not live past the age of 20 and there is no known cure for the disease.
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