Snap Judgments: Patriots rush to AFC title game with dominant win over Colts
|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.