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Stock Watch: Super Bowl-bound Patriots pull away from upstart Colts

New England executed on both sides of the ball to punch a ticket to Arizona to take on the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Patriots took care of business Sunday night at rainy Gillette Stadium with a 45-7 blowout of the Colts in the AFC Championship Game to advance to Super Bowl XLIX Feb. 1 in Arizona.

New England entered the game as heavy home favorite over an upstart Indy squad led by Andrew Luck, a team that Bill Belichick's squad had blown out in three previous meetings with the former No. 1 overall pick. That trend continued for a fourth time, although much like New England's 42-20 blowout in Indianapolis during the regular season, the eventual conquest wasn't without a few early pitfalls.

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

For the first 30 minutes in Foxborough Sunday night it felt a lot like the Patriots dominated the Colts. And New England did go to the locker room with a 17-7 lead after a 21-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal to essentially close out the second quarter.

But that field goal came after three straight incompletions in the end zone as the Patriots failed to take what would have been a more convincing lead. Earlier in the second quarter Tom Brady threw a bad throw toward Rob Gronkowski on the goal line that upended another potential touchdown drive with an interception.

Considering that the first score of the day for New England was set up by a Josh Cribbs muffed punt, Indy was hanging around more than many Patriots fans would have liked.

Also considering that the Seattle Seahawks hung around earlier in the day in a somewhat similar situation and then pulled off the fourth-quarter comeback, there was some halftime anxiety even with the Patriots taking the opening kickoff of the second half.

But clearly that worry was unwarranted. The Patriots scored on each of their first four possessions of the second half – all in the third quarter – to pull away. When it rained, it literally and figuratively poured for the Colts in the second half.

New England used a balanced, creative attack (35 passes and 40 rushing attempts) to achieve victory this time around. There were touchdown catches for both James Develin and a tackle-eligible Nate Solder. There was also plenty of running for LeGarrette Blount, churning out 148 yards and running roughshod on the Colts for the second straight January blowout.

Defensively the Patriots never let Luck get going. His throws were off most of the night. Matt Patricia mixed things up in coverage, with lots of zone and man looks out of sub packages. Kyle Arrington once again was impressive against T.Y. Hilton, but the overall team pass defense was the real story on a night that Luck and Co. struggled mightily to get anything near rhythm.

Foxborough fans never seemed to mind the wet weather – many New England-style foul-weather fisherman raincoats spotted the Gillette Stadium crowd – as they watched their team advance to its sixth Super Bowl in the Brady/Belichick era. The march for the elusive fourth Lombardi Trophy is on.

As Belichick said when accepting the AFC Championship trophy, on to Seattle. On to Arizona. On to another assault on the NFL record books for Belichick, Brady and the Patriots.

Before then – and there will be two weeks to break down the latest trip to the big game, here's a look at some of the personnel highs (lots) and lows (not many) from the beatdown of the Colts. And for the first time this season, given the impressive blowout, there are no players getting the Sell grade here. All Buys for these Patriots on this night with this impressive win.



LeGarrette Blount** – It's January. The Colts came to Gillette Stadium. And Blount ran all over them. That's just the way the story goes, at least for the last two postseasons. A year ago Blount ran for 166 yards and four rushing scores. This rainy night he set a Patriots franchise playoff record with 30 rushing attempts for 148 yards and three touchdowns.

James Develin – The big fullback was not just a key part of the rushing attack via his blocking. He also showed a great second effort on a 1-yard touchdown to take a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter. Develin also had a couple plays where he gave Tom Brady a nice boost on key QB sneaks for first downs.


Solder/Wendell/Kline/Fleming** – Probably could throw the entire offensive line into the good category, but these four get love for specific reasons. The veteran Ryan Wendell bumped inside to center for the injured Bryan Stork and led a unit that got the job done all night. Josh Kline filled in at right guard with the same result. Cameron Fleming was announced as an eligible receiver all night and worked as an extra blocker. And, most of all, Nate Solder was a tackle-eligible and hauled in 16-yard touchdown in which he busted through would-be tacklers into the end zone. The line got it done in traditional ways – run blocking – and with the non-traditional contributions.

Julian Edelman – The slot wide receiver had a couple drops, but also led the team with a game-high nine catches for 98 yards. He also had a 45-yard punt return to set up a short field to a Blount touchdown.


Kyle Arrington** – Usually the slot corner, the veteran matched up frequently with Colts leading receiver T.Y. Hilton. Arrington had some help over the top, but he once again held Hilton in check, the playmaker finishing with just one catch for 36 yards on six targets.

Josh McDaniels – The New England offensive coordinator takes some heat from the fans and media, but he pulled together an impressive game against the Colts. He ran often against a team that he knew he could run against. He mixed things up in the passing game and continued to utilize some unique formations and personnel groups. McDaniels doesn't always get enough credit for the Patriots impressive offensive success.

Matt Patricia – The defensive coordinator for the Patriots – who lives in the shadow of Bill Belichick – also had a great night against the Colts. He mixed up some coverage, personnel and looks in the back end, but overall shut down the NFL's No. 1 passing attack.

Team defense – There was really no one standout player on the Patriots defense. Darrelle Revis and Jamie Collins recorded late interceptions. Collins led the way with four tackles. Collins, Ninkovich and Chandler Jones tallied a total of five hits on Luck. The entire back end got the job done. New England held a very impressive offense – the No.1 passing offense – to just 209 total yards and 7 points. That's just damn impressive.

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