Matchup Winners: Blount carries the load


WHEN THE PATRIOTS RAN


After three straight games of dominance one thing is certain: The Colts simply cannot handle the Patriots ground game. For the second time in three meetings LeGarrette Blount bludgeoned Indianapolis, this time to the tune of 148 yards on 30 carries for a hearty 4.9-yards per carry average. Blount was unstoppable in short yardage, consistently moving the chains on third-and-short, and he also found the end zone three times, giving him seven postseason touchdowns in two postseason meetings with the Colts. Indy’s small front was bullied by the same extra offensive linemen looks that were successful in the regular season with Cameron Fleming serving as a third tight end on a number of snaps. The Patriots finished with 177 yards on 40 carries, and that production once again dictated the night for New England.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE COLTS RAN


Indianapolis’ Daniel “Boom” Herron did a nice job of hitting the holes and picking up some yards, but the problem was the Colts weren’t able to stick with him due to the score. Herron finished with 51 yards on 10 carries and the Colts actually picked up83 yards on 19 attempts, which translates to a solid 4.4-yard average. But Indy’s ground game was never relevant and the Patriots front seven was much more effective than it was a week ago. While the Colts piled up some yards many of them came in the fourth quarter when both sides had long since dialed it down. Jamie Collins was much more active in the run game than he was a week ago and Herron rarely had a chance to hit the second level without contact as a result. EDGE: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASSED


It wasn’t the best night for Tom Brady but on this night he didn’t need to be perfect. He was able to consistently convert on third down – the Patriots were 12 of 18 (67 percent) – and when he needed to make a throw he generally did. Brady finished 23 of 35 for 226 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for a 100.4 passer rating. But he was off target on a few throws, missing some open receivers and forcing one deep down the seam to Rob Gronkowski that was picked off by D’Qwell Jackson and allowed Indy to briefly crawl back into the game late in the first half. Julian Edelman shook off a bad drop to catch nine passes for 98 yards and he was pretty much the lone target. Gronkowski finished with just three catches for 28 yards, although one went for a touchdown. Nate Solder also was on the receiving end of a touchdown, catching a tackle-eligible pass and rumbling 16 yards for the score. It wasn’t perfect but more than good enough on this night.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

WHEN THE COLTS PASSED


Andrew Luck needed to be perfect in order for the Colts to pull off the upset. He wasn’t even close. His first two passes of the night sailed high over the heads of open receivers, the second of which missed an open Reggie Wayne for a first down near the sideline. Things never really improved from there as Luck was a miserable 12 of 33 for 126 yards with no touchdowns and a pair of late interceptions for an embarrassing passer rating of 23. He consistently was high with his throws and appeared to have trouble managing the winds and rain in Foxborough, and as a result his team never had a chance. T.Y. Hilton was blanketed by Kyle Arrington, who limited the No. 1 option to just one catch for 36 yards, and it took a great effort from Hilton for that completion. Donte Moncrief and Wayne were shut out and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen combined for seven catches for 70 yards. The coverage was tight and when it wasn’t Luck was off. Not a good combination for the visitors.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

SPECIAL TEAMS


The biggest play of the game was arguably a special teams turnover by the Colts that allowed the Patriots to take a quick 7-0 lead. After forcing a three-and-out on the first drive, Indy gave it right back when Josh Cribbs muffed a short Ryan Allen punt and Darius Fleming recovered the ball on the Indy 26. Soon thereafter the Patriots had the lead and never looked back. Edelman added a 45-yard punt return in the second half that set up the Patriots final touchdown of the night, and the coverage units were solid as well. Adam Vinatieri missed a 51-yard field goal wide to the right early, and that combined with Cribbs’ fumble eliminated the Colts chances. Stephen Gostkowski recorded four touchbacks and was his usual consistent self. Another solid game for Scott O’Brien’s special teams units.  EDGE: PATRIOTS

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