For the eighth time in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era, the Patriots are heading to the AFC Championship Game.
New England kept it on the ground to beat Indianapolis on Saturday night, with LeGarrette Blount running for four touchdowns and Stevan Ridley running for two more. New England won 43-22 in a game that the Patriots controlled throughout and put out of reach in the fourth quarter.
Blount had a brilliant game, rushing for 166 yards and becoming just the second player in NFL postseason history to score more than three touchdowns in a game. (Ricky Watters of the 49ers owns the all-time record, having scored five touchdowns in a playoff game in January of 1994.)
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck threw some outstanding passes and showed that he’s one of the most talented young players in the NFL, but he also threw some bad passes and was intercepted four times. The Patriots’ defense frequently gave Luck trouble, and New England linebacker Jamie Collins in particular had an excellent game. It was a win in which the Patriots had plenty to be proud of on both offense and defense.
Now the Patriots will watch Sunday’s Chargers-Broncos game to find out their opponent in the AFC Championship Game. If the Chargers win, New England will host next week’s game. If the Broncos win, the Patriots will travel to Denver for the AFC Championship, and we’ll be treated to a week of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning hype.
But for all the talk about the quarterbacks, if tonight’s game was any indication, the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game plan will include a heavy dose of Brady handoffs. This was a game the Patriots won on the ground.