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Random Thoughts: Blount running in the rain

Some random thoughts from the Patriots 45-7 blowout victory over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

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Running in the Rain –** LeGarrette Blount \ ran all over the Colts in the rain during the divisional round playoffs last year, and that was the case once again during the AFC Championship. Playing in moderate to heavy rains throughout, Blount could not be stopped. Unlike a year ago when much of his production came late on a long touchdown run, Blount was a going concern throughout. After picking 19 yards in the first quarter Blount really got things going from there. He tacked on 49 yards in the second quarter and by the time the third quarter was through he was well over 100 with 25 carries for 136 yards. He tacked on some more in the final quarter, finishing with 148 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns. The undersized Colts front simply had no answers for the power back and the Patriots offense was unstoppable as a result.

Bounce Back Effort – The Patriots defense didn't exactly cover itself in glory in the postseason opener but Sunday night was a much different story. The high-powered Colts never got in a rhythm as Andrew Luck suffered through a miserable performance. The Patriots secondary was a huge part of that, mixing its coverages throughout with Darrelle Revis covering a variety of receivers and the rest of the secondary seemingly switching from one receiver to the next. Brandon Browner frequently came off the field while Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler rotated in. Kyle Arrington handle T.Y. Hilton with tremendous success, limiting him to one catch, which was a beauty that went for 36 yards. Revis covered Reggie Wayne at the start and switched to rookie Donte Moncrief at times. He basically finished things with a pick in front of Hilton that he returned 30 to the Colts 13. When Luck did have an open man, his throws were generally high and off target. Aside from one long touchdown drive, the Patriots defense was impeccable.

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Foul Mood –** Vince Wilfork committed a terrible personal foul that kick-started Indianapolis' touchdown drive late in the second quarter and it gave visitors new life. Leading 14-0 and driving for more, the Patriots lost a chance to extend the lead when Tom Brady forced one down the seam to Rob Gronkowski. D'Qwell Jackson picked off the pass inside the 5 and the Colts took over at their 7. After a 9-yard pass from Andrew Luck to Dwyane Allen, the Colts lost 5 yards on a pass to Jack Doyle that would have set up third-and-six. But Wilfork inexplicably came in late and landed an elbow to Doyle's head after the tight end was down, and the 15-yard penalty allowed Indy some breathing room. Eventually luck led the Colts 93 yards in 10 plays and cut the lead in half at 14-7. Without Wilfork's penalty it's hard to imagine the drive would have gotten started in the first place.

Turning Point – The Colts couldn't come up with a stop on the ensuing drive but picked up a boost for the second half nonetheless. The Patriots drove downfield and appeared poised to regain their 14-point lead but couldn't quite finish things off. New England almost came away with nothing but a generous spot on a fourth-down Brady sneak allowed the Patriots to have a first-and-goal from the 3. Brady tried three straight passes and failed to complete any of them. First he looked for Danny Amendola on the right side, then went to the left toward Gronkowski on second down and Shane Vereen on third. All three fell incomplete and Stephen Gostkowski had to kick a 21-yard chip shot to extend the lead to 10. But the Colts went to the locker room with some hope that about 10 minutes earlier did not exist.

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The New England Patriots take on the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, January 18, 2015.

Eligibility Issues –** For the second straight week the visitors had problems identifying which players were eligible for the Patriots. Last week Baltimore failed to understand which players were eligible and which weren't, and against the Colts Bill Belichick changed things up a bit. Cameron Fleming served as an extra tight end periodically throughout the first half as he helped pave the way for Blount. Michael Hoomanawanui also was announced as an ineligible receiver on one play, which resulted in an incomplete screen pass that Brandon LaFell dropped. In the second half Belichick waited for a third-and-inches on the opening drive to unveil his latest wrinkle. After Blount had already converted on third-and-short, Belichick had left tackle Nate Solder report as eligible, and Brady hit him with a short pass and watched the college tight end rumble 16 yards for a touchdown that made it 24-7.

Jumbo Package – In addition to the variety of formations and eligible receivers the Patriots used, the offense also featured some different personnel groupings in short-yardage situations. Deep in the red zone the Patriots replaced right guard Josh Kline with Marcus Cannon while using extra tight ends. Blount generally got the call in these formations and picked up either first downs or touchdowns while the extra bulk was too much for the Colts front to handle. At 335 pounds, Cannon is considerably bigger than the 295-pound Kline, and Blount is a load to deal with even without the benefit of fullback James Develin and the extra tight ends paving the way. The heavy looks kept Indy's front moving backward all night.

End of the Line – Rob Ninkovich may not have had a huge game statistically with just three tackles but he was quite active throughout the game. First he read a tight end waggle to the flat when he dropped off and got in between Doyle and Luck, deflecting a short pass that likely would have resulted in a first down. Ninkovich also got some timely pressure on the passer, finishing with two quarterback hits and a pair of passes defensed. As the game progressed Ninkovich continued to provide pressure on Luck and as the Colts deficit grew so too did Luck's struggles and the Colts finished with a paltry 209 total yards. Ninkovich was a big part of that.

Extra Points – The Patriots won their eighth conference title, tying Pittsburgh and Dallas for the most conference championships in NFL history, and reached their seventh Super Bowl under the ownership of Robert Kraft, setting a new NFL record for most conference championships as an owner (Pat Bowlen, DEN, 6). … New England improved to 17-4 all-time in home playoff games, and New England's home playoff winning percentage of 80.1 percent ranks second all-time (SEA, 11-2, .846). … Belichick won his 21st playoff game as a head coach, passing Dallas's Tom Landry (20) to set the NFL record for most playoff wins by a head coach. He also won his sixth conference title as a head coach, tying Miami's Don Shula for the most by any coach in NFL history. … Brady won his sixth conference championship, passing John Elway (5) for the most conference titles by a starting quarterback. Brady will advance to his sixth Super Bowl, and will tie DT Mike Lodish for the most Super Bowl appearances by a player. Brady is slated to set a record for any player with his sixth Super Bowl start. Brady and Belichick won their sixth conference title together, adding to an NFL record. Staubach/Landry (DAL), Kelly/Levy (BUF), and Noll/Bradshaw (PIT) each have four conference titles.

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