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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,

Tom Brady passes Peyton Manning to become NFL all-time leader in postseason passing yards

01.18.15 at 7:52 pm ET
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Tom Brady fires a pass Sunday against the Colts in the AFC championship. (Getty Images)

Tom Brady fires a pass Sunday against the Colts in the AFC championship. (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Check off another milestone in the hall of fame career of Tom Brady.

With a five-yard completion to Julian Edelman on the first play after a muffed punt by Joshua Cribbs, Brady reached 6,802 career postseason passing yards, passing Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.

Brady entered the AFC championship tilt game against the Colts with 6,791 career passing yards, needing 10 more yards to surpass Manning (6,800) for the top spot.

This is the second straight record-setting week for Brady in the playoffs. Last week against the Ravens, he threw his 46th career postseason touchdown pass, moving ahead of boyhood idol Joe Montana.

Brady already has the NFL’s all-time mark for postseason wins by a starting quarterback, with 19, three more than Montana.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, AFC Championship, Indianapolis Colts, Joe Montana

Seahawks pull off miracle, shock Packers to head back to Super Bowl

01.18.15 at 6:34 pm ET
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Luke Willson celebrates a miraculous 2-point conversion with Jermaine Kearse as the Seahawks pulled off a miracle in the NFC championship Sunday. (Getty Images)

Luke Willson celebrates a miraculous 2-point conversion with Jermaine Kearse as the Seahawks pulled off a miracle in the NFC championship Sunday. (Getty Images)

Epic.

In one of the most shocking endings in NFL postseason history, the Seattle Seahawks punched their return ticket to the Super Bowl in miraculous fashion. Russell Wilson, who had struggled badly throughout the game, connected with Jermaine Kearse from 35 yards out just over three minutes into overtime to give Seattle a 28-22 win over Green Bay in a monumentally classic NFC championship game at CenturyLink Field.

Trailing 19-7 in the final three minutes, the Seahawks scored twice, executed a perfect onside kick and converted a miraculous two-point conversion to forge a 22-19 lead with 1:25 left. Then a hurting and hobbled Aaron Rodgers engineered a scoring drive that ended with Mason Crosby’s fifth field goal of the day, a 48-yarder, that forced overtime and prompted huge cheers from the crowd watching inside Gillette Stadium.

The overtime pushed the start time of the Patriots-Colts AFC championship back 10 minutes.

For the first 57 minutes, it appeared for all the world that Green Bay would be headed to Glendale.

Rookie defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Wilson twice in the first half and Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass as the Packers built a 19-7 lead.

The game was a sloppy affair in the first half, as the two teams combined for five turnovers.

Wilson, who finished just 14-of-29 for 209 yards and four interceptions, seemed particularly affected by the early heavy rains that gave way to sun showers. The Seahawks quarterback had just eight yards passing while being victimized twice by Clinton-Dix, Green Bay’s first-round pick last year.

But the Packers kept the Seahawks in the game by settling for field goals on two early turnovers in the first quarter. Rodgers made it 13-0 Packers when he connected with Randall Cobb for 13 yards before the second quarter began. Mason Crosby hit his third field goal of the game in the second quarter to give Green Bay a 16-0 halftime lead.

The Seahawks generated some life late in the third quarter when they converted a fake field goal into a touchdown, as hold Jon Ryan found tackle Gary Gillam in the end zone. The Seahawks trailed 16-6 and instead of going for two points, making it a one possession game, they settled for the extra point.

The Packers came down the field and made it 19-7 on Crosby’s fourth field goal. The Seahawks couldn’t generate much offense in the final quarter until Marshawn Lynch‘s tightrope act on the right sidelines on a flare route gave Seahawks first-and-goal. Wilson’s run into the end zone with 2:09 left made it 19-14 Green Bay.

Stephen Hauschka then executed an onside kick that Brandon Bostick muffed while leaping. The Seahawks then marched 50 yards in 44 yards, capped by a 24-yard Lynch touchdown run. The Seahawks went for two and Russell Wilson appeared ready to give up when he faded back to his 25. He lobbed a pass to tight end Luke Willson, who caught it at the 1 and reached over for the two points. That conversion would prove critical as Rodgers drove the Packers into position for Crosby’s 48-yarder with 14 seconds left that tied the game, instead of giving the Packers the win.

The Seahawks are looking for back-to-back Super Bowl titles, and await the winner of the Patriots-Colts AFC championship match in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 1.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, aaron rodgers, Green Bay Packers, Marshawn Lynch

Chris Jones among inactives vs. Colts; Jonas Gray, Cameron Fleming active

01.18.15 at 5:13 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The following players are inactive for the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game: offensive linemen Bryan Stork and Jordan Devey, defensive end Zach Moore, wide receivers Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms, running back James White and defensive lineman Chris Jones.

Stork (knee) was already ruled out on Friday. He didn’t practice all week after leaving last Saturday’s divisional round game with the Ravens in the second quarter, and not returning.

The only mild surprise was Jones, but he was on the injury report all week with an elbow injury and was listed as probable. Joe Vellano was signed to the active roster last night, a sign Jones might be unavailable for the game.

Jonas Gray and Cameron Fleming are both active after missing last week’s game. They both played major roles in the Week 11 win in Indy. This is the first time since being added to the active roster in Week 6 that Tyms is inactive.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Patriots inactives,

Tom Brady Sr. opens up about his famous QB son: ‘He doesn’t have a doubt they’re going to the Super Bowl’

01.18.15 at 4:00 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the rest of the 2003 Patriots celebrated with a Super Bowl win. Could the same thing happen this time around? (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Tom Brady and the rest of the 2003 Patriots celebrated with a Super Bowl win. Could the same thing happen this time around? (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — As Tom Brady prepared for the AFC championship against the Colts, his father spoke out on his son’s football future, whether it involves the Patriots and life after football.

In an extensive interview with NFL Media’€™s Andrea Kremer that aired Sunday morning, Tom Brady Sr. opened up about what worries him about his son.

‘€œ[That] when the day is over, he will be able to find a passion to replace this passion,” Brady Sr. said. “When you have somebody who loves it as much as he does, that is a concern for his Mom and I.”

But Daddy Brady said he and his wife haven’t talked about those concerns with him yet.

“No, because we don’€™t see that as being an imminent situation,” Brady said.

Then the subject of his Patriots future was broached. Does Tom Sr. think his son could get ever released by the Patriots one day?

“There are no sacred cows in the NFL,” Brady Sr. said. “If Bill Belichick doesn’€™t want him anymore, then Bill Belichick will get rid of him.”

As for for the game against the Colts, Tom Sr. feels confident based on the vibe he gets from his son.

“He doesn’€™t have a doubt that they’€™re going to get to the Super Bowl,” Brady Sr. said. “He doesn’€™t have a doubt that they’€™re going to win the Super Bowl. Now, whether or not that happens that remains to be seen. He’€™s got a never-ending will to succeed and a will to work and to do what’€™s necessary to get where he wants to be.”

Brady Sr. also opened up about his son’s decision to go to the University of Michigan in the mid-90s.

“When he ultimately decided to go to Michigan, frankly it broke my heart,” Brady Sr. said. “It killed me. I wanted him to go to Cal Berkeley, 35 miles away. I went to a psychologist for two months to get over the fact that I had separation from him. I had separation from my son who is one of my best friends in the whole world.”

To view the entire interview, visit the NFL Network site.

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